Objectives COVID-19 has become a global epidemic, and effective therapies have not been discovered up to now. We conducted this study to explore the effectiveness and safety of tocilizumab recently used for treating COVID-19. Method A comprehensive search was conducted (up to September 27, 2020), and 19 eligible records were identified according to the inclusion and exclusion criteria. The data of the studies were extracted by 2 independent reviewers and were analyzed to evaluate the safety and availability of tocilizumab for treating COVID-19. Results Thirteen retrospective case-control studies (n = 2285 patients) and 6 retrospective single-armed studies (n = 208) were retrieved in this study. In the comparison of tocilizumab treatment group (TCZ) and standard treatment group (ST), significant associations with a lower risk of admission to ICU, use of ventilation, and mortality (OR, 95% CI: 0.53, 0.26 similar to 1.09; 0.66, 0.46 similar to 0.94; 0.44, 0.36 similar to 0.55) were found in the tocilizumab treatment group. What is more, patients treated with tocilizumab had better clinical improvement compared with the patients treated with ST (OR, 1.24; 95% CI, 0.96 similar to 1.62). After taking tocilizumab, the patients had lower C-reactive protein (CRP), white blood cell count (WBC), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) (WMD, 95% CI: - 99.66, - 156.24 similar to- 43.09; - 0.95, - 1.8 similar to- 0.11; - 12.58, - 18.88 similar to-6.29) but higher troponin (WMD, 7.61; 95% CI, 3.06 similar to 12.15) than before. In addition, tocilizumab did not have significant influence on patients' neutrophil count (Neut), lymphocyte count (Lymp), platelet count (Plt), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and creatine (WMD, 95% CI: - 0.29, - 2.91 similar to 2.33; 0.42, - 0.23 similar to 1.07; 5.2, - 2.85 similar to 13.25; 22.49, - 2.73 similar to 47.7; - 44.78, - 93.37 similar to 3.81). Conclusion Tocilizumab may have potential effectiveness to treat COVID-19 according to the results of this study. However, more large-scale studies are needed for more accurate conclusions.