58.4 Overall Score (down 7.5 since Aug 1st.)

United Kingdom

  • 32.4 Public Health
  • 56.4 Financial
  • 68 Fact-Based
  • 32.4 Public Health
  • 56.4 Financial
  • 68 Fact-Based

The U.K. scored near the median for overall policy, due to a relatively strong financial policy, although its weak initial lockdown hurt its score; the new strain is causing a huge uptick in cases, resulting in stricter lockdowns.

Pre-COVID Conditions

The U.K. has a low number of hospital beds, balanced out by a relatively low degree of inequality, and it scores slightly above the median in most other categories.

  • Debt/GDP ratio 86.8%
  • GDP/capita $48,169
  • Gini coefficient (out of 100) 34.8
  • Infant mortality rate (out of 1,000 live births) 4
  • Healthcare access score (out of 100) 84.6
  • Hospital beds/1,000 People 19.7

Government Response

Select a data point for more information
(Data points represent policy level as of Oct 1.)

Public Health Directives

The UK’s public health policy score is around the median, with its score brought down by limited stay-at-home orders, a late travel-restriction policy, limited testing, and few funds for emergency healthcare needs.

  • Stay at home order 0
  • Public gathering restrictions 4
  • School closings 1
  • Public event cancellations 0
  • Testing policy 0
  • Emergency healthcare investments/capita $105.32
  • Travel restrictions 2
  • Tests/1,000 people 305.3
  • Contact tracing 2

Financial Response

The UK’s financial response has been relatively strong in terms of income support and debt relief, although its overall stimulus package has been relatively small, resulting in an overall score in the median.

  • Financial stimulus as share of GDP 7.4%
  • Income support 2
  • Debt forebearance 2

Fact-Based Communication

The British government has largely not engaged in misinformation but has, in some instances, limited media access to information in response to COVID-19.

  • Reliance on science/fact based information 1
  • Press freedom 1

COVID-19 Status as of Oct 1

The UK’s delayed lockdown and poor public health policy have resulted in a very high rate of confirmed deaths, placing it in the bottom quartile.

  • Total deaths 42,143
  • Death rate per 100K 620.8
  • Total cases 453,264
  • Cases per 100K 6,677
  • Percent of positive tests 2.7
  • Change in positivity rates +2.3
Case Trend Line
Daily cases Level 1 Lockdown Level 2 Lockdown
Date Status New Cases/1M
1 May 13 Manufacturing and construction workers are encouraged to go back to work 47.16
2 Jun 01 Some schools, outdoor markets, and car showrooms reopen 22.95
3 Jun 08 Dentist 's offices reopen 17.94
4 Jun 15 All other non-essential retail reopens 15.02
5 Jul 04 Hospitality, personal care service industries, and public places reopen 9.19
6 Sep 24 Pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues must close by 10pm 66.31

Differentiating Factors

  • Lockdown measures reimposed, cases rise: As cases begin to rise in the UK once more, PM Johnson has issued a policy to close pubs and restaurants by 10 p.m. Public health experts have criticized the efficacy of Johnson's policy as demand has overwhelmed testing capacity, and private companies have been unable to respond to growing case numbers. Read More
  • Temporary school re-opening creates natural test of spread: The UK's month-long re-opening of schools in June has created a natural test for the spread of coronavirus among children and teachers and has given hope to those who want students to return to school in September. Throughout the month, only 70 cases were reported among students, and 128 among staff. Read More
  • Contact tracing hampered by Internet outages: Health officials in Southampton were unable to trace and isolate the contacts of thousands of people who had tested positive for coronavirus in early August, due to an Internet outage that affected the contact-tracing system. People were unaware of their need to isolate for over two weeks, exceeding the 48-hour contact-tracing window recommended by the government. Read More
  • Decentralized healthcare created confusion: The UK healthcare system is devolved, meaning that authorities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are free to make their own decisions regardless of the directives emanating from Westminster. This has led to confusion and conflict between prominent politicians, particularly relating to economic re-opening and social distancing measures. Read More
  • OECD predicts UK economy will shrink substantially: The OECD has predicted that the UK economy will shrink by 11.5 percent, more than any other OECD country. Read More
  • UK considers joining EU to secure vaccine: In a move that may have implications for post-Brexit cooperation with the EU, the government is assessing whether to join an EU program to secure COVID vaccinations as a bloc. The EU's size gives it greater power to strike a deal with drug companies and keep prices low, but entering this program would prevent the UK from conducting separate negotiations with other pharmaceutical companies. Read More
Compared with Other Small Island Nations
  • 100
    New Zealand 1,480
    Per 1M

    New Zealand has had very strong policy, particularly with regard to its reliance on science and facts and its relatively strong financial response.

  • 55.1
    Iceland 2,728
    Per 1M

    Iceland has a very strong score, owing heavily to its reliance on facts as well as generous debt and income support; its large improvement since January was keyed by significant improvements in public health policy and financial support.

  • 60.9
    Taiwan 514
    Per 1M

    Taiwan has a relatively strong policy score, but its minimal stimulus and weak debt relief bring it down. However, the data does not accurately measure its advanced contact tracing, which may have diminished the need for more restrictions; this likely results in a score that underestimates Taiwan’s response.

Further Reading From Foreign Policy

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New Zealand

Statistics and government response factors available on each country profile include:

Pre-COVID Conditions:

  • Debt to GDP ratio
  • Infant mortality rates
  • Hospital beds per 1,000 people
  • Gini coefficients measuring inequality
  • Health access and quality

COVID-19 Public Health Directives:

  • Stay-at home orders
  • School-closing policy
  • Public-gathering restrictions
  • Cancellation of public events
  • Testing policy and rates per 1,000 people
  • Emergency healthcare spending per capita
  • Travel restrictions
  • Contact tracing

COVID-19 Financial Response:

  • Stimulus package as a share of GDP
  • Income support
  • Debt-forbearance

Public Communications:

  • Instances of misinformation by leadership
  • Limitations on press freedom, censorship

Current/Historic In-Country COVID-19 Status:

  • Death rates per 1 million
  • Case rates per 1 million