© 2020 Elsevier Ltd The UK government response to COVID-19 has been heavily criticised. We report witnesses’ perceptions of what has shaped UK policies and how these policies have been received by healthcare workers. Such studies are usually affected by hindsight. Here we deploy a novel prospective approach to capture real-time information. We are historians, social scientists and biomedical researchers who study how societies cope with infectious disease. In February 2020 we began regular semi-structured calls with prominent members of policy communities, and health care professionals, to elicit their roles in, and reactions to, the pandemic response. We report witnesses’ perceptions that personal protective equipment (PPE) stocks were too small, early warnings have not led to sufficiently rapid policy decisions, and a lack of transparency is sapping public trust. Significant successes include research mobilisation. The early experiences and reactions of our witnesses suggest important issues for investigation, notably a perception of delay in decision making.
Social Science and Medicine