The coronavirus (COVID-19) has had a major impact on various aspects of life and the economy during 2020.

Statistics from across the UK government and the devolved administrations show the scale of deaths as well as the profound changes to travel, trade and wellbeing.

Here are eight charts that show how life changed during this extraordinary year.

1. Deaths since March were 20% above average

Death registrations in England and Wales compared with the five-year average (2015 to 2019), by whether or not COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate

Embed code

  1. Figures include deaths of non-residents.

  2. Based on the date a death was registered rather than the date a death occurred.

  3. All figures for 2020 are provisional.

  4. The International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Edition (ICD-10) definitions are as follows: coronavirus (COVID-19) (U07.1 and U07.2).

  5. Statistics on death registrations are updated weekly.

COVID-19 has been mentioned on 69,771 death certificates in England and Wales in the year to 4 December 2020 (end of week 49). This is 12.3% of all deaths for that period.

The 428,306 total deaths registered – from all causes – since the week ending 27 March (week 13) were about 20% (71,167) higher than the average for the same period over the previous five years.

As of 4 December there had been 1,480 COVID-19-related deaths registered in Northern Ireland, with total deaths since the week ending 27 March 17% above the five-year average. As of 6 December, there have been 5,868 deaths involving COVID-19 registered in Scotland.

Deaths exceeded their five-year average in age groups 15 years and over. The biggest increase was in those aged 85 to 89 years, with three-quarters of deaths involving COVID-19 in people aged 75 years and over.

There is evidence that the death rate and infection rate for most ethnic minority groups are higher compared with white ethnic groups. This link is very complex and could be explained by many socio-economic and environmental factors. The Office for National Statistics has published a detailed analysis on the social impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on people from different ethnic groups in the UK.

2. Lockdown to stop the spread changed how and when we travelled

Transport use by mode, as percentage of an equivalent day or week before the first national lockdown, Great Britain, March to December 2020

Embed code

  1. Car, light commercial vehicle and HGV use is a percentage of the equivalent in the first week of February.
  2. Rail is the percentage of the equivalent week in 2019.
  3. Bus use is the percentage of the third week of January 2020.
  4. Cycling data are for England only and is highly variable owing to weather and daylight conditions and is based on comparison with one day in the first week of March.
  5. National Rail data are subject to revisions up to a week after initial publication. The latest days data would be an underestimate of the final result as the raw ticket sales data matures. Since 16 September 2020, DfT has applied an adjustment to the latest data to attempt to account for this.

To reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the UK began a full nationwide lockdown on 23 March 2020, with non-essential shops, pubs, restaurants and venues closed, people instructed to stay at home as much as possible and to only to go out for limited reasons, such as to exercise.

Cycling, measured by usage in England, was the only mode of transport to record a rise during the first full lockdown, according to data from the Department for Transport (DfT).

It has since declined to below March levels, however, the colder and wetter months would normally result in a decrease.

As many workers followed the stay at home instruction, rail use in April and May fell to as low as 4% of February levels.

Transport use dipped again during the second period of nationwide restrictions in Wales from 23 October to 9 November and in England from 5 November to 2 December. Usage across Great Britain has since risen, although remains below the levels from before the first lockdown.

3. Arrivals to the UK by air in the year to October were down 73% on the same period last year

Weekly air passenger arrivals, UK, 6 January to 25 October 2020, compared with equivalent week in 2019

Embed code

  1. Data are weekly totals for weeks commencing Monday. 2020 dates have been aligned with equivalent dates in 2019.

For air travel, the year started like it had in 2019 with very little difference in arrivals during January and February. As the coronavirus spread, the UK government advised against all non-essential foreign travel on 17 March 2020. In April, arrivals were 1% of their 2019 level, according to data from the Home Office.

Health measures were introduced at UK borders in June and July, which saw the introduction of International Travel Corridors. This contributed to an increase in arrivals from late June, but with arrivals still only at about a quarter of the levels seen in 2019. There were around 1.7 million passenger arrivals to the UK by air routes in October 2020, which is around 18% of October 2019 levels, when there were 9.8 million arrivals.

4. Almost a third of workers were furloughed by summer

Proportion of businesses’ workforce on partial or full furlough leave by industry, UK, 23 March to 29 November 2020

Embed code

  1. Final unweighted results, Wave 2 to Wave 6 (before June), and final weighted results, Wave 7 to Wave 19, of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Business Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey (BICS).
  2. Weighted data are available from Wave 7 (1 June to 14 June) onwards only. The sample redesign in Wave 7 improves our coverage for the small-sized businesses, allowing for weighted results to be truly reflective of all businesses. Comparisons between these periods should be treated with caution.
  3. Businesses were asked for their experiences for the reference period. However, for questions regarding the last two weeks, businesses may respond from the point of completion of the questionnaire.
  4. Percentages are from businesses that had not permanently stopped trading.

From April 2020, millions of UK workers whose employers were unable to continue trading at the same levels as before the lockdown were supported by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, also known as furlough.

The ONS Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey (BICS) Wave 7 found 30% of workers across businesses that had not permanently stopped trading were on furlough leave between 1 June and 14 June 2020.

With theatres, cinemas and other venues closed, the arts, entertainment and recreation sector had furloughed 71% of workers in early June. The accommodation and food service sector – affected by the limiting of pubs and restaurants to takeaway only – had 69% of staff on furlough at the same time.

The proportion of the workforce on furlough leave gradually reduced over the summer, particularly with the re-opening of the hospitality sector, reaching 8% by Wave 16 (5 to 18 October 2020). The proportion of the workforce on furlough leave has increased to 16% in Wave 19 (16 to 29 November 2020). This is likely to be as a result of new restrictions introduced over the survey period.

5. UK trade saw a record decline and then a record increase, but the recovery has stalled

The UK economy, measured by gross domestic product (GDP), shrank by a record 19.5% in April 2020, following the start of the first lockdown on 23 March. By October 2020, GDP was still down 7.9% compared with February and since July 2020, there has been a loss in momentum across all main sectors.

Total trade in goods and services, excluding precious metals fell during the first lockdown. Exports totalled £41.4 billion in May 2020 compared with £56.4 billion in the same month of 2019. Imports decreased from £58.9 billion to £38.0 billion over the same period.

Both imports and exports grew over the summer but monthly exports figures for October were below the levels seen at the same time last year, at £48.0 billion compared with £57.4 billion respectively. Imports were £49.6 billion compared with last year’s £62.0 billion.

6. Most children switched to learning at home before returning to class in the autumn

Attendance at state-funded schools during the first lockdown and since the summer holidays, England, March to December 2020

Embed code

  1. Education settings included are academies (including free schools and studio schools), local authority maintained schools (excluding local authority nursery schools), non-maintained special schools, alternative provision and university technical colleges.
  2. All figures are adjusted for non-response. This methodology has been adjusted through-out the pandemic.
  3. From March to July schools were asked to provide a count of the number of children of critical workers and the number of vulnerable children. Some children were classified as both a child of a critical worker and a vulnerable child. Some settings counted pupils as children of critical workers, but not in the count of vulnerable children. Therefore, the number of vulnerable children is an under-estimate. DfE estimates the true figure is up to 5% higher.
  4. On 25 September and 2 October, 1% of state-funded schools in England reported an inset or training day. Schools or colleges with inset or training days are considered as 'open' but not 'fully open'.
  5. From 12 October, schools were asked to exclude nursery children from their submission. A corresponding decrease was observed in submitted number on roll in schools with nurseries.
  6. Latest data and additional footnotes and methodology can be found on the Department for Education website.

As the UK went into its first full lockdown in March 2020, schools sent most pupils home to learn from there. The scientific advice provided to the government at the time was that this would help to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

According to Department for Education data, in the first week of the national lockdown, 2% of students in state-funded schools in England – an average of just under 200,000 per day – were still attending. These included vulnerable children and children of key workers.

Between 7 May and 7 June 2020, 87% of parents said a child in their household had been home-schooled because of the pandemic, according to the ONS Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

In June 2020, children in Reception and Year 1 and Year 6 pupils in England were able to return, followed by those in Years 10 and 12, with exams coming up. In Wales, schools re-opened on 29 June, with only a third of pupils at any one time going into school, while in Scotland and Northern Ireland schools began to return in August.

Since September 2020, all students across all nations of the UK have been expected to attend school unless they had been exposed to COVID-19, were displaying symptoms or needed to be absent for other valid reasons.

7. Elevated levels of anxiety seen at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Great Britain have since improved

Average well-being scores, scale of 0-10, Great Britain, 20 March to 13 December 2020

Embed code

  1. Questions: "Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?", "Overall, to what extent do you feel that the things you do in your life are worthwhile?", "Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?" and "Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?".

  2. This question is answered on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is "not at all" and 10 is "completely".

  3. Base: all adults.

  4. The latest results are available in the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

Average anxiety ratings were substantially elevated at the end of March 2020, as the first lockdown began, with adults rating themselves an average of 5.2 out of 10. Since then, anxiety ratings have decreased reaching a low of 3.5 in July. They rose again to just over 4 in the autumn and remained higher than pre-lockdown levels in February.

Life satisfaction also decreased to its lowest score since records began in 2011, with an average 6.5 out of 10 between 28 October and 1 November, before rising to 6.8 between 10 and 13 December.

In November 2020, almost one in five (19%) adults reported experiencing some form of depression. This is similar to earlier in the pandemic (19% in June 2020); however these rates had almost doubled from around 1 in 10 (10%) before the pandemic (July 2019 to March 2020).

8. More people can now see a point when life will return to normal

Percentage of adults who believe life will return to normal in six months or less or more than a year, Great Britain, March to December 2020

Embed code

  1. Question: "How long do you think it will be before your life returns to normal?".
  2. Base population: all adults.
  3. This figure only includes those who reported that life will return to normal in six months or less, or more than a year. Other reported time periods are included in the datasets.

Throughout spring and summer, the proportion of adults in Great Britain who thought normal life was more than a year away grew, peaking between 16 and 20 September at 41%.

Towards the end of the year that had changed and by 10 to 13 December around a quarter of adults (23%) reported that they think life will return to normal in six months or less, an increase from around 1 in 10 (9%) on 21 to 25 October, but a decrease from 28% between 2 to 6 December.


  • Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, provisional

    Provisional number of deaths registered in England and Wales in the latest weeks.

  • Why have Black and South Asian people been hit hardest by COVID-19?

    The coronavirus pandemic has hit some parts of society harder than others. When looking at social, economic and environmental factors there are differences, particularly for Black and South Asian ethnic groups.

  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, UK

    Percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) in private residential households in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, including regional and age breakdowns. This survey is being delivered in partnership with University of Oxford, University of Manchester, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and Wellcome Trust, working with the University of Oxford and partner laboratories to collect and test samples.

  • Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain

    Indicators from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (covering 16 to 27 March 2022) of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on people, households and communities in Great Britain.

  • UK trade

    Total value of UK exports and imports of goods and services in current prices, chained volume measures and implied deflators.