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About this website

The COVID-19 policy tracker 2020 documents national policy and health and social care system responses to COVID-19 in England, and how they changed over the course of 2020. The tracker can be used to understand and assess the policy response. 

Our policy tracker provides a description and timeline of the key policies and events related to COVID-19 in England between 31 December 2019 and 31 December 2020, with data on what changes have been introduced, when, why, and by whom – as well as how these changes have been communicated by policymakers. 

We track national policy changes in five areas – from health and care system changes to wider social and economic policy. In each policy area, the tracker documents a mix of data related to key policy interventions, including – where available – what the change was, when it was introduced, who introduced it, the stated aims of the intervention, its key components, and links to relevant documents.

We focus only on publicly available data from official sources, such as speeches by government ministers, government guidance, and NHS planning documents. We only cover key policies or interventions in each area. We don’t track media or expert commentary related to the pandemic and the government’s response (unless named officials are interviewed and their comments played a role in the policy response).  

Policy responses to COVID-19 are complex, context specific and rapidly evolving – with different countries pursuing varying approaches. Documenting these policies during the first year of the pandemic can help us understand and assess government responses to COVID-19 over time. 

About the themes

The 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 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 and health system responses were accurate at the time of being written. Many policies have since changed and related guidance documents may be out of date. The tracker has not been updated past 31 December 2020 to reflect this.


Many colleagues have contributed to the COVID-19 policy tracker project. We would like to thank colleagues at the Health Foundation, Nuffield Trust and other organisations for their help and advice on the project. We would also like to thank Ellie Mendez Sayer for her research support.

Any errors or omissions are those of the Health Foundation.

Help us improve the tracker

Inevitably, there will be speeches or policy guidance that we missed or chose not to include. Please email Phoebe Dunn from the Health Foundation's policy team if you think anything is missing, incorrect, out of date, or could be improved.

Dunn P, Allen L, Cameron G, Malhotra AM, Alderwick H. COVID-19 policy tracker. The Health Foundation; 2020