COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom
The COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The virus reached the UK in late January 2020. As of 12 August 2021[update], there had been more than 6.1 million confirmed cases and 120,701 deaths among people who had recently tested positive – the world's twenty-second-highest death rate by population and the second-highest death toll in Europe after Russia. There has been some disparity between the outbreak's severity in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – health in the UK is devolved, with each constituent country having its own publicly-funded healthcare system operated by devolved governments.
This article may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. (September 2021)
|COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom|
|First outbreak||Wuhan, China|
|Index case||York, North Yorkshire|
|Arrival date||31 January 2020|
(1 year, 7 months, 3 weeks and 1 day ago)
|Date||As of 8 September 2021[update]|
|Suspected cases‡||736,187 (+51,876)|
|Ventilator cases||1,047 (active)|
Northern Ireland Department of Health
|‡Suspected cases have not been confirmed by laboratory tests as being due to this strain, although some other strains may have been ruled out.|
After being discovered in China, the first UK case was reported on 31 January 2020, and COVID became a notifiable disease in the UK in March. A public health information campaign was launched in early February to slow the virus's spread, and the UK government introduced the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 for England. The government's initial response and preparation were slow: after an initial strategy to "contain, delay, research and mitigate", more stringent recommendations and restrictions were incrementally introduced to the public throughout March, as the virus continued to spread.
On 23 March 2020, the UK went into lockdown. The governments imposed a stay-at-home order banning all non-essential travel and contact with other people, and shut almost all schools, businesses and gathering places. Those with symptoms, and their households, were told to self-isolate, while those with certain illnesses were told to shield themselves. People were told to keep apart in public. Police were empowered to enforce the measures, and the Coronavirus Act 2020 gave all four governments emergency powers not used since the Second World War. However, the governments did not initially ban or quarantine incoming travellers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer forecast that lengthy restrictions would severely damage the economy.
The health services worked to raise hospital capacity and set up temporary critical care hospitals, but faced shortages of personal protective equipment. By April it was reported that social distancing had "flattened the curve" of the epidemic after 26,000 deaths. Daily cases and deaths fell in May–June, and remained low over the summer. The lockdown was gradually lifted in June–July and most schools re-opened by early September. Serious cases rose significantly that month, and local restrictions were gradually re-imposed in all four countries. In both England and Scotland, tiered restrictions were introduced in October, and England went into a month-long lockdown during November followed by new tiered restrictions in December. Meanwhile, multi-week 'circuit-breaker' lockdowns were imposed in Wales and Northern Ireland. In December, a new COVID variant was partially blamed for a rise in cases in southeast England and led to more countries banning travel from the UK.
Following a brief easing of restrictions for Christmas, all of the UK went into a third lockdown (including schools), amid another COVID surge that surpassed 1,000 daily deaths in January 2021. The UK became the first country to authorise and begin use of the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine in a mass vaccination programme. Throughout early 2021, the UK had one of the world's highest vaccination rates, and the highest in Europe. In late January, testing and quarantine rules were imposed on all incoming travellers. Schools re-opened in March, and the lockdown began to be gradually lifted from April. The more transmissible Delta variant entered the UK and became dominant, leading to another rise in cases. The government lifted all mandatory restrictions in late July, with deaths and hospitalisations lower than before due to the vaccination programme.
In addition to the major strain on the UK's healthcare service, the pandemic has had a severe impact on the UK's economy, caused major disruptions to education and had far-reaching impacts on society.