A timeline of national policy and health system responses to COVID-19

Our policy tracker documents national government and health and social care system responses to COVID-19 in England in 2020

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Policy narrative

The government’s strategy for responding to COVID-19 developed over time. This theme charts the overall narrative of the response in 2020, the key policies pursued and how these were presented by officials. It includes major events or milestones to help tell the story of the government’s response.

Measures to limit spread

The government introduced wide-ranging policies to contain and limit the spread of COVID-19 in 2020. This theme focuses on measures related to social distancing, transport restrictions, testing and contact tracing, and other parts of the public health response throughout the pandemic's first year.

Health and social care response

The pandemic affected every part of the health and social care system. This theme looks at changes to how care was delivered in the NHS and social care, and policies on funding, workforce, regulation, and infection prevention and control. We focus on national measures rather than local changes.

Research and development

Action to support research and development related to COVID-19 played a central role in the government’s pandemic response. This theme includes investment to develop COVID-19 vaccines and therapies, or guidance on research and development. We do not include peer-reviewed research on COVID-19.

Broader policy

Pandemic policy included measures aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 and the response. This theme covers support for the economy, individuals, and wider public services, as well as changes to legislation and new state powers related to the government’s response.

Policy history

Visit our Policy Navigator site to understand how our current health and social care policy landscape developed before the pandemic. It charts some of the major policies and related developments in health and care from the emergence of the first hospitals in England in the 11th century right up to modern day.