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UK Covid-19 alert level drops from level 5 to level 4 as threat to NHS recedes
25 February 2021, 15:05 | Updated: 25 February 2021, 16:16
The UK's Covid-19 alert level has been down from level 5 to level 4 after the four Chief Medical Officers agree the risk of the NHS being overwhelmed within 21 days “has receded”.
The alert level was raised to level five on January 4, the day Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the third national lockdown for England.
In a joint statement, the four chief medical officers and NHS England's national medical director Stephen Powis said the numbers of patients in hospital was "consistently declining" but warned "we should be under no illusions" because deaths and infections are still high.
According to Government data, there are 16,800 people in UK hospitals being treated for coronavirus symptoms.
England's Professor Chris Whitty, Northern Ireland's Dr Michael McBride, Scotland's Dr Gregor Smith, Wales's Dr Frank Atherton and Professor Powis announced the decision on Thursday following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre.
The statement read: "The health services across the four nations remain under significant pressure with a high number of patients in hospital, however thanks to the efforts of public we are now seeing numbers consistently declining, and the threat of the NHS and other health services being overwhelmed within 21 days has receded."
But despite the good news, the four experts warned we "should be under no illusions" that all is well, as transmission rates, hospital pressures and deaths are still very high.
They added: "In time, the vaccines will have a major impact and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated when they receive the offer. However for the time being it is really important that we all – vaccinated or not - remain vigilant and continue to follow the guidelines.
“We know how difficult the situation has been and remains to be for healthcare workers, we thank them for their immense effort, skill and professionalism throughout the pandemic.”
📢The UK #COVID19 Alert Level will move from Level 5 to Level 4.— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) February 25, 2021
This means that cases, hospital pressures and deaths remain high, but the threat of health services being overwhelmed within 21 days has decreased.
See joint statement from the four UK Chief Medical Officers ⬇️
England has been in its third national lockdown since January 5, with cases plummeting in recent weeks and more than 18 million doses of vaccines being delivered into peoples arms.
On Monday, the Prime Minister set out his "roadmap" out of lockdown, which would see life in the country return largely to normal by June 21, as long as numbers remain low.
But despite the hope being given by the alert level being reduced, Boris Johnson has said the numbers are still too high to be able to consider accelerating the easing of rules.
"We're sticking to our plan. Obviously we will continue to look at data but the data currently still shows, as you know, that the incidence of the disease, sadly, remains high,' he added.
"I'm afraid the numbers of people in hospital are still not far below the peak that they were in April last year.
"So we think that the road map that we've set out is a good and balanced one for us to get on a journey that is cautious but, as I say, irreversible as well."
More to follow...