View the Country Report for the United Kingdom in the Oxford Compendium of National Legal Responses to Covid-19

The United Kingdom has been caught between multiple crises across 2020 and into 2021. Having officially left the European Union on 31 January 2020 after a fraught period of withdrawal negotiations and exceptional internal political upheaval, its response to the outbreak of the pandemic was slower than its neighbours elsewhere in Europe.  Despite having nationalised health service, one of the world's finest medical academies, and a clear (if late) commitment by national and devolved governments to taking public health interventions seriously, the UK nevertheless managed to have nearly the highest case fatality rate in the world. It did so despite having imposed three 'lockdowns' which included stay-at-home orders from 26 March 2020 and first relaxed on 13 May; from 5 November - 3 December 2020; and from 5 January 2021 to present.  Each period of lockdown correlated with a noticeable drop in infection and death rates, which nevertheless remained very high.

Formally a country with unitary rather than federal government, the UK nevertheless devolves substantial legislative authority to the Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly and Welsh Assembly (Senedd), with each also having devolved governments. Relations between the nationalist Scottish Government and the UK have been fraught, with a 2014 independence referendum held in Scotland resulting in a narrow margin (55%) in favour of remaining in the United Kingdom. The clear pro-EU remain vote in Scotland, coupled with a widely perceived superiority of the Scottish Government's response to the pandemic, has added considerable support to calls for a second independence referendum. Tense political developments are expected following Scottish elections to be held in May 2021, which are expected to result in another strong showing for the Scotish Nationalist Party.

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