Skip to main content

Using new updates to to assist our response to the coronavirus pandemic

At Government Digital Service (GDS) we have implemented some new updates from on certain pages on GOV.UK to make important content on the pandemic easier to find for users.

Last year was passed by the Open Standards Board as a new data standard for government. GDS is working with GOV.UK and on helping ensure the new updates meet government and end user needs.

We are keen to hear from other government organisations as well as healthcare and schools, particularly those that are also using, on how the new updates can be improved and what the markup could additionally express.

The new updates from is an open, machine-readable, metadata schema that helps organisations, including those in the public sector, make their information easier to find through search engines such as Google and Bing. It also makes it easier for others to reuse our content in different ways, such as in voice assistants or chat bots.

At GDS, we have been using on GOV.UK for a long time, but have recently started using the schema’s new enhancements to help our response to the Coronavirus.

One enhancement we have started using is the SpecialAnnouncement collections of tags  to help surface the most useful public service updates for users at this time.

What is the SpecialAnnouncement schema?

The SpecialAnnouncement tag system is flexible, and you can use one or more properties within it.

For example, within the SpecialAnnouncement schema, local authorities might use publicTransportClosuresInfo for useful local, granular public transformation updates, or combine diseasePreventInfo and travelBans properties to shed clarity on preventing the spread of the virus. Parents can be kept updated with school closures with the schoolClosuresInfo tag.

The benefits of using the updated tags will, like the rest of the tags, help us provide trusted information to users and make sure other useful and trusted content from others is surfaced. allows us to put in links to other pages with relevant content, both from within GOV.UK and external, reliable sites. When a user does a search, they then find the relevant GOV.UK content, followed by further related content elsewhere. Our links will ensure the search engines set these follow-on links to cover local and national content.

Implementing SpecialAnnouncement

We implemented the SpecialAnnouncement schema on the page. Initially, when the page was created, there wasn’t a lot of related content. As new content is created, we can update the links to useful pages.

Here is how it works in the search results:

screenshot of a Google search for 'coronavirus' showing GOV.UK content in the results

If you are a user reading web content, we help you see the schema in use. For example you can download the GOV.UK Chrome extension or the Firefox one. This allows you to look at the structure. Here, you can see the category properties within the SpecialAnnouncement schema:

Screenshot of the SpecialAnnouncement schema being viewed in the Google Structured Data Testing Tool

What do we need?

We would like to hear from others in government on how you have either implemented some of these enhancements, whether you are satisfied with them, and  your ideas on what we can do to use more of them.

We are aware that is updating its relevance to the Coronavirus frequently. Let us know how the updates work for you and which additional capabilities could be useful.

Also, are the tags working for end users? Let us know whether you are finding the right content on the Coronavirus from us at GOV.UK and from the rest of the public sector.

You can comment using the comment section below. is also looking for feedback directly from users of the schemas as they are iterating them.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by CHRIS SMITH posted on

    Hi Rosalie, thanks for an interesting blog. FYI 'feedback directly' link is broken.

  2. Comment by Rosalie Marshall posted on

    Hi Ben

    Many thanks for your interest.

    The Open Standards Board passed in December last year for use in government when publishing data. A number of other metadata schemas were also approved for different profiles. We are currently working to get the standards up on GOV.UK but we are concurrently working on guidance that we want to be published at the same time. We should be posting these very soon.

    If you would like to be involved in our further efforts, please feel free to contact me directly.

    Many thanks, Rosalie

  3. Comment by Ben Proctor posted on

    You say "Last year was passed by the Open Standards Board as a new data standard for government."

    I can't see it listed on the Open Standards for Government page except within the Jobs posting standards.

    My reading of this was that is mandated for job postings but you seem to imply it is mandated more widely.

    Am I looking in the wrong place?