The UK’s coronavirus alert level is to be reduced from Level 4 to Level 3 following a recommendation by the country’s chief medical officers.
The chief medical officers (CMOs) for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, said in a statement that they had agreed to downgrade the alert level after a steady and continuing decrease in cases in all four nations.
Level 3 means the epidemic is in “general circulation”, whereas Level 4 means transmission is high or rising exponentially.
Health secretary Matt Hancock welcomed the recommendation, saying it was a “big moment” for the UK and showed the “government’s plan is working”.
He said: “The UK moving to a lower alert level is a big moment for the country, and a real testament to the British people’s determination to beat this virus.
“The government’s plan is working. Infection rates are rapidly falling, we have protected the NHS and, thanks to the hard work of millions in our health and social care services, we are getting the country back on her feet.”
The statement from the CMOs said: “There has been a steady decrease in cases we have seen in all four nations, and this continues. It does not mean that the pandemic is over. The virus is still in general circulation, and localised outbreaks are likely to occur.
“We have made progress against the virus thanks to the efforts of the public and we need the public to continue to follow the guidelines carefully to ensure this progress continues.”
UPDATE: COVID-19 alert level will move from Level 4 to Level 3.
However, the virus is still in general circulation, and localised outbreaks are likely to occur. You must continue to wash your hands and keep 2m distance.
Read the full update ⬇️https://t.co/hjEhlv3Nys
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) June 19, 2020
Following their statement, the department for health said the COVID-19 alert level would move from Level 4 to Level 3 but warned: “However, the virus is still in general circulation, and localised outbreaks are likely to occur. You must continue to wash your hands and keep 2m distance.”
The downgrading come as the government continues with its easing of lockdown restrictions. Non-essential retail shops reopened on Monday (June 15) and some parts of the hospitality sector are expected to be allowed to reopen on July 4, though there is a debate around the social distancing rules and how it could affect.
Concerns have previously been raised that lockdown measures had started at the beginning of June despite the coronavirus alert level remaining at four.
When Boris Johnson announced the Covid Alert Levels system in his address to the nation on May 10m he outlined its five tiers from level one to five based on the spread of Covid-19 through the country.
The hope is that the level will gradually be downgraded - allowing restrictions to be eased further such as how many people can meet, whether people can go into each other’s houses and what people can do.
Level two is when the number of cases and transmission is low and “no or minimal” restrictions are required and Level one will mean coronavirus is no longer known to be in the UK.
Professor Matt Keeling, from the University of Warwick, said the move was “expected and is justified by the current epidemiological situation”, but warned that it is “not a time for complacency”.
“Our model-based assessment of the outbreak shows that cases are now at levels comparable with early March (before the lockdown began) and are continuing to fall, albeit slowly,” he said.
“The move to level three is a direct consequence of the public’s response to the social-distancing advice, but does not imply that these efforts should be relaxed. We cannot afford to lose the gains that have been made in controlling this outbreak.”
Coronavirus: what happened today
Read more about COVID-19
How to get a coronavirus test if you have symptoms
How easing of lockdown rules affects you
In pictures: How UK school classrooms could look in new normal
How public transport could look after lockdown
How our public spaces will change in the future