The four UK chief medical officers have agreed the Covid-19 alert level should move from level 4 to level 3, meaning the “epidemic is in general circulation”.A statement from the chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as well as NHS England national medical director Stephen Powys said: “Following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data, the UK chief medical officers and NHS England national medical director agree that the UK alert level should move from level 4 to level 3.
“Thanks to the efforts of the UK public in social distancing and the impact we are starting to see from the vaccination programme, case numbers, deaths and Covid hospital pressures have fallen consistently.
“However Covid is still circulating with people catching and spreading the virus every day so we all need to continue to be vigilant. This remains a major pandemic globally.
“It is very important that we all continue to follow the guidance closely and everyone gets both doses of the vaccine when they are offered it.”
The Prime Minister is expected to announce that people in England will be able to take a step closer to normality from next week as more indoor mixing and hugging loved ones will be permitted once more.
Boris Johnson will hold a press conference in Downing Street later on Monday to announce the next steps in England’s road map out of lockdown.
But ahead of the announcement, mental health minister Nadine Dorries urged people to act “cautiously” and one health expert advised people to maintain social distance and keep using face masks.It is expected that Mr Johnson will confirm that England can press ahead with the next phase out of lockdown from May 17 which allows more freedoms both in and outdoors.
Professor Sir John Bell said the nation was in a “very strong position” to move forward with the easing of restrictions which will enable people to “try and get back to normal”.
Oxford University’s regius professor of medicine told Good Morning Britain that data from vaccination programmes from the UK, Israel and the US shows a “rather rapid fall-off” in cases of disease, hospital admissions and deaths after rising numbers of people were given their first dose of vaccine.
“It’s a really very striking fall in all those things.
“I do think that we’re in a very strong position to go forward now with fewer restrictions and try and get back to normal.”
Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick, said that figures for hospital admissions and new infections are similar to low levels seen last August.
But the member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) urged people to “act responsibly” as restrictions were lifted.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I think it’s actually very important for our mental health and wellbeing that we can hug our loved ones, but to me the key message is, if and when this comes in, we need to remember that the pandemic hasn’t gone away.
“We are still a few steps away from normality, so it’s really great that we can hug our loved ones, but what we need to remember is we need to be a little bit careful.”
He said that the easing of restrictions could see the R number rise above 1, but added: “The key thing for me is what we want to avoid is hospital admissions going up and people dying going up.
“And if we can keep those out of the low levels they are then hopefully this resumption of hugging can be done safely and we can proceed again to the June 21 relaxation.”
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