The Covid-19 alert level is to be moved to five – the highest setting – the UK’s chief medical officers have recommended. Parts of the health services across the UK are under “immense pressure”, the chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said. In a joint statement on Monday evening they said that due to rising cases and without further action there is a risk of the NHS “in several areas” being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.
They said: “Following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data, the four UK chief medical officers and NHS England medical director recommend that the UK alert level should move from Level 4 to Level 5. “Many parts of the health systems in the four nations are already under immense pressure. There are currently very high rates of community transmission, with substantial numbers of Covid patients in hospitals and in intensive care. “Cases are rising almost everywhere, in much of the country driven by the new more transmissible variant. We are not confident that the NHS can handle a further sustained rise in cases and without further action there is a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days. “Although the NHS is under immense pressure, significant changes have been made so people can still receive lifesaving treatment. It is absolutely critical that people still come forward for emergency care. If you require non-urgent medical attention, please contact your GP or call NHS 111.”
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the latest figures on the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital showed the pandemic was at a “critical point” and that “immediate and decisive action” was needed.
Boris Johnson is expected to announce a new national lockdown in England, with a televised coronavirus update scheduled for 8pm on Monday evening.
The lockdown will see all of England put into Tier 4, ITV News understands, with restrictions tightened to force the closure of schools and the banning of outdoor team games.
Outdoor exercise will still be allowed.