The COVID-19 pandemic is a major international emergency leading to unprecedented medical, economic and societal challenges. Countries around the globe are facing challenges with diabetes care and are similarly adapting care delivery, with local cultural nuances. People with diabetes suffer disproportionately from acute COVID-19 with higher rates of serious complications and death. In-patient services need specialist support to appropriately manage glycaemia in people with known and undiagnosed diabetes presenting with COVID-19. Due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, people with diabetes may suffer longer-term harm caused by inadequate clinical support and less frequent monitoring of their condition and diabetes-related complications. Outpatient services need reorganised to maintain advice and support, focusing on proactive care for the highest risk, making use of telehealth and digital services for consultations, self-management and remote monitoring, where appropriate. Stratification of patients for face-to-face or remote follow-up should be based on a balanced risk assessment. Public health and national organisations have generally responded rapidly with guidance on care management, but the pandemic has created a tension around prioritisation of communicable vs non-communicable disease. Resulting challenges in clinical decision making are compounded by a reduced clinical workforce. For many years, increasing diabetes mellitus incidence has been mirrored by rising preventable morbidity and mortality due to complications, yet innovation in service delivery has been slow. While the current focus is on limiting the terrible harm caused by the pandemic, it is possible that a positive lasting legacy of COVID-19 might include accelerated innovation in chronic disease management.