It is an under-statement to say that the emergence, spread and impact of the SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) virus placed enormous strains on both the health care systems and wider welfare capacities of governments across the world. Indeed, across high-, middle-, and low-income country settings, it is not difficult to find instances of infrastructural failure – sometimes dramatic – and disruption of essential care services (Lal et al., 2021; Daly, 2020). Governments with very different institutional and political characteristics found their existing health, social care and welfare systems to be inadequate to the task of mitigating the impact of a virus that proved exceptionally ‘efficient’ in terms of its ability to infect vast swathes of national populations and, in so doing, to expose and exacerbate multiple, intersecting inequalities that, in many instances, had been neglected for too long (Bambra et al., 2021; Béland et al., 2022; Ellison et al., 2022; He et al., 2022). This virtual special issue is concerned with the ‘post-Covid-19 era’. We apostrophize this term because it is, of course, clear that the virus has not disappeared, with people across the globe continuing to be infected, and to die, from Covid – and Covid-related conditions. Indeed, we do not yet have enough research to fully understand the long-term consequences of Covid-19, at either individual or societal level. Nevertheless, with the World Health Organisation declaring an end to Covid-19 as a global health emergency in May 2023, this is perhaps a good moment to beginning taking stock, not so much of the pan-global situation post-Covid, but of a range of issues and challenges thrown up by the pandemic. Underpinning the articles presented here is the general question of whether ‘things are likely to be different’ in the wake of Covid-19. What, in other words, can be learned from the experiences of the pandemic that will help to develop future policy responses in ways that will encourage policy makers at various levels of governance to engage with those experiences and, in the process, embrace a ‘paradigm shift’ in assumptions about the nature of health and social policies as they do so (Bali et al., 2022)? Learning naturally comes in different shapes and sizes, and the five articles included in this virtual special issue each take a problem or concern relating to responses to the virus that, when contemplating the future, should give pause for thought.

Cite as

He, A., Ellison, N. & Smith, K. 2024, 'Health and social welfare policies in the 'post-Covid-19' era : embracing a paradigm shift?', Urban Governance, 4(1), pp. 3-4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ugj.2024.03.001

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Last updated: 27 April 2024
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