The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has triggered an unprecedented number of policy responses around the world across multiple policy domains. While governments have combined containment and health policies with social policies (CHSPs) during the initial phase of the pandemic in various ways, the current literature offers little knowledge of the patterns of these combinations and their determinants and outcomes. This paper fills this gap by investigating CHSP combinations across ≥120 countries. We further examined whether the CHSP response was determined by political regimes or compensation hypotheses—serving the purposes of responding to pre-existing economic downturns, inequality or social unrest. We also investigated the associations between CHSP responses and mobility, virus infection and unemployment. Using policy data from the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, results from sequence analysis indicated that governments’ CHSP responses could be clustered into five categories: high social policies (SPs), middle SPs, containment and health (CH) leading SPs, low SPs and gradual high SPs. We used multinomial regression models to investigate determinants of CHSP responses. We found that CHSP responses did not differ by political regimes, and CHSP combinations were not driven by compensation hypotheses. Instead, gross domestic product per capita and government effectiveness were the key drivers for high levels of policy responses. We also found that low SP responses were associated with fewer mobility changes. Taken together, our findings suggest that lower-income countries required more support and resources in order for them to adopt necessary CH and SP responses.