Evaluation and review of government action is important in all situations. It allows for us to see and understand what the government is doing, understand what the impacts of government action are, scrutinise these impacts against relevant principles and standards (such as legality, human rights compliance, parliamentary oversight, and value for money), and seek to improve government action in response to the findings of such review.
Evaluative review therefore supports the accountability, transparency, and legitimacy of state action.
In the context of COVID-19, review serves these same functions and aspirations. However, it also enables evidence-based assessment of laws and regulations that were, in some cases, introduced with great urgency, with limited parliamentary debate, and in the context of a fast-changing epidemiological and statistical landscape. It also allows for scrutiny of regulations that were introduced through secondary legislation, i.e. without being passed by Parliament but using powers that were given to secretaries of state through primary legislation.
Where governments act with urgency, evaluative review is critical to ensure that the scrutiny-deficit of fast-tracking law-making can be addressed through retrospective review. In its ideal state, it also functions to ensure that changes to law, restrictions on rights, and adjustments to parliamentary process that were introduced to address an urgent and emerging public health crisis do not endure once the pandemic has passed.