This article assesses, using a framework derived from lesson-drawing, policy transfer and crisis research, the lessons offered by the media from abroad and from the past in the UK COVID-19 pandemic. The lesson-drawing literature focuses on a series of steps and questions associated with the 'fungibility' of lessons, and the crisis literature, with its constituent elements of threat, uncertainty and between 'routine' and 'non-routine' or 'less routine' crises. The article utilises the LexisNexis Database 1 in order to provide a content analysis of newspaper coverage of lessons offered, giving analysis in 'real time' of the source of potential lessons (e.g. past pandemics or other nations), and the type of lessons (e.g. copying or instruments). Its analysis highlights the complexity of lesson-drawing in 'real time' in a period of considerable uncertainty, where knowledge is contested, and is subject to change over time.