UK Covid alert level drops as NHS threat 'recedes'


February 25, 2021 - 221 views

The UK has lowered its Covid-19 alert status from the highest possible level for the first time since early January, reflecting a sustained reduction in the number of people being admitted to hospital with the disease.

The department of health said on Thursday that “following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data”, the four UK chief medical officers including Chris Whitty, UK chief medical adviser, and Stephen Powis, NHS England national medical director, “agree that the UK alert level should move from level 5 to level 4 in all four nations”.

Level 5 denotes a “material risk” of the NHS being overwhelmed, while level 4 means the Covid-19 epidemic “is in general circulation” and “transmission is high or rising exponentially".

On Monday Boris Johnson, prime minister, set out the road map for lifting England’s coronavirus lockdown, with the country set to gradually ease restrictions from next month.

All measures could be removed by June 21. Following the announcement Whitty tweeted: “This change is a result of the remarkable efforts of the public to bring case numbers down. Deaths and infections are still very high . . . if we continue to follow the guidance cases will continue to fall.” The government statement said the health services in all four UK nations remained under significant pressure, with a high number of patients in hospital. However, it added that “the threat of the NHS and other health services being overwhelmed within 21 days has receded”.

Recommended Coronavirus pandemic Why global Covid infections have plummeted The most up-to-date daily total showed 1,142 had been hospitalised, with 9,206 taken in over the previous seven days — a reduction of more than 20 per cent over the week. A total of 9,985 people tested positive for Covid-19 in the figures released on Thursday, a fall of more than 15 per cent over the previous week.

Deaths fell by 30 per cent over the same period. In their statement, the chief medical officers and Powis cautioned, however, that Britons “should be under no illusions — transmission rates, hospital pressures and deaths are still very high”. In time, the vaccines would have a significant impact, they said. However they added that “for the time being it is really important that we all — vaccinated or not — remain vigilant and continue to follow the guidelines”.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, added his voice to the calls for caution saying there were still 12,500 Covid-19 patients in English hospitals, with almost 1,000 new cases being admitted a day and 46 per cent more critical care beds occupied than this time last year. He added: “Weekly case rates across the UK are 115 per 100,000 people compared to the 25 we would need to de-escalate to level 3.”

According to the latest data released by the government on Thursday, which covers the period up to and including 24 February, 18.6m people in the UK have now received their first dose of coronavirus vaccine.

England’s road map from lockdown:

From March 8: All schools and further education settings in England will reopen from March 8 for face to face teaching.
University students on practical courses will also be permitted to return to campuses.

From March 29: Individuals will be permitted to meet in outdoor settings such as parks in groups of up to six people or meet one other household. Stay at home guidance will be lifted and outdoor sports facilities such as swimming pools and tennis courts will reopen. 

From April 12: Non essential retail will reopen along with personal care services such as hairdressers and nail salons and indoor leisure facilities such as gyms. Outdoors entertainment attractions such as theme parks and drive in cinemas as well as hospitality venues like pub gardens can also reopen. 

From May 17: Indoor hospitality and entertainment venues will reopen with capacity restrictions. Meanwhile, up to 30 people will be allowed to gather in outdoor settings. Individuals will be able to meet another household or gather in groups of no more than six indoors. 

From June 21: The legal limits on social contact in indoor and outdoor settings will be removed. The remaining closed settings including nightclubs will reopen subject to the latest scientific guidance. 

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