COVID-19 and Society: Shaping the COVID Decade

Looking at the long-term societal effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The COVID-19 pandemic was the opening scene for a new decade. The UK was already entering into the 2020s with a heightened sense of political, social and economic uncertainty following austerity, Brexit, the rise of populism and the growing salience of the climate crisis. In a period already defined by discord and dislocation, COVID-19 opens up systemic opportunities as well as threats.

Theatregoers sit keeping a social distance at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre, London in September 2020. Photo by Isabel Infantes / AFP via Getty Images.

The COVID decade will be defined by how government, business, civil society and individuals respond to the scale, depth and complexity of the long-term effects of the disease and the short-term policies of the national lockdown.

Please note that this is a draft narrative, as the project is still in progress.

About the project

The British Academy has been asked by the Government Office for Science to produce a report on the long-term societal effects and impacts of COVID-19. The initial question we have considered is: what are the long-term societal effects of COVID-19? We are considering the challenges and opportunities in different policy areas that COVID-19 has unearthed and the timescales in which we need to think about addressing them.

We are exploring three key policy areas:

  • Health and wellbeing: physical and mental health (including young people and at work), wellbeing and the environment we live in.
  • Communities, culture and belonging: includes communities and civil society, cities and towns, family and kinship, and arts, media, culture, heritage and sport.
  • Knowledge, skills and employment: includes education (compulsory and post-16), skills, knowledge and research and work and employment.

We are approaching each of these policy areas with five cross-cutting themes in mind: governance, trust, cohesion, inequalities and sustainability.

The project is led by Professor Dominic Abrams FBA.

We expect to publish the report in early 2021.

Call for evidence

Respond to the call

We are currently in the evidence-gathering stage of the project. This includes our call for evidence, which is open until Monday 23 November 2020.

COVID-19 – Shape the Future

The British Academy’s Shape the Future programme explores how to create a positive post-pandemic future for people, the economy and the environment.

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