The persisting challenge of COVID-19 is urging states to respond with evolving strategies via policing systems. Policing systems are now mandated with new tasks beyond daily maintenance of law and order. First, states rely largely on empowering the public police officers as sovereign enforcers against COVID-19. Yet, the enforcement of COVID-19 displays considerable variation across nations, despite the existence of specific laws designed to curtail behaviour. This study seeks to analyse and explain the diverged pattern of policing during the pandemic via the experiences of Hong Kong and England. Different severity of quarantine, social distancing, and lockdown orders have been imposed in both Hong Kong and England since March 2020, but with different levels of engagement in pandemic policing. Our paper explains how and why England (de-centralized and comparatively light policing) and Hong Kong (aggressive, re-centralized policing response) have experienced such divergences in policing response. Copyright © 2023 The Author(s).