The UK’s public health response to COVID-19

Bottom Line:

The UK was slower to react to the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other first world nations, resulting in 505.8 deaths per million population, higher than both the global and American averages.


Scally, G., Jacobson, B. & Abbasi, K. The UK’s public health response to covid-19. BMJ (2020). 

Date Published:

15 May 2020


On March 3, the UK established a four-stage plan (contain, delay, research and mitigate cases) to manage COVID-19. However, following the WHO’s announcement on March 11 declaring COVID-19 as a global pandemic, the UK’s response was notably delayed compared to that of other nations. By March 12, the UK announced a move from the containment phase in its strategy to the delay phase, without providing a rationale. They abandoned contact tracing efforts as England’s Chief medical officer explained that it was no longer necessary to identify new cases and that all testing would be performed on hospitalized patients. At this time, the UK also rejected the closing of schools and both ports and airports remained open. A plan for future community-based testing and contact tracing was not created. The UK’s delayed response to the pandemic has resulted in an elevated number of deaths compared to that of other first world nations. The UK saw 505.8 deaths per million population. This is much higher than the global and American death rates, which were 39.1 and 251.5 deaths per million population respectively. The UK’s death rate was exceeded only in Italy, who observed 519.2 deaths per million population.

Summary by: Spandana Amarthaluru