From ‘herd immunity’ to ‘stay home’ to ‘stay alert’: United Kingdom’s response to COVID-19

Robert O. Nartowski,

Lucy Huby,

Ruairidh Topham,

Szymon Golen,

Katrin Brückner,

Gavin Hanigan,

Hazim Saleem,

Iwona A. Bielska,

Paul O. Shepherd,

Stuart Feltis


The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in various public health responses around the globe. Due to the devolved powers of the United Kingdom, the response has been centralized but simultaneously greatly differing across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The following article examines the governmental responses to the outbreak, the public health measures taken, data collection and statistics, protective equipment and bed capacity, the society’s response, and lastly, the easing of the lockdown restrictions. In terms of the governmental response, the COVID-19 pandemic was initially met with less urgency and social distancing, along with the development of herd immunity, were first mentioned. As the virus continued to spread, the government started imposing stricter measures and a lockdown was implemented. Tests were conducted using a five pillar typology. The collection of information, particularly on COVID-19 associated deaths, varied across the United Kingdom and among the governmental organizations due to differing definitions. In term of hospital bed availability, the rate of hospitalizations was the highest from late March to early April of 2020. Temporary hospitals were constructed, however, they mostly went unused. The United Kingdom society was generally compliant in adapting to the lockdown and trust in the government rose. Nonetheless, as the lockdown progressed, trust in the government began to fall. After several months, the rate of infection decreased and the lockdown in the United Kingdom was lifted in accordance with ‘Our plan to rebuild: The United Kingdom Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy’. The slogan ‘Stay at Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives’ was replaced with ‘Stay alert. Control the virus. Save lives’.

Słowa kluczowe: COVID-19 pandemic, United Kingdom, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland