In the beginning of the year, the UK was at the highest COVID alert level—level five. Healthcare systems were at the risk of being overloaded, and strict social distancing regulations needed to be implemented. In February, it moved down to level four. The rate of transmission was still dangerously high, and social distancing measures had to be maintained. But now, after careful consideration and advice from experts, the chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales have agreed to move the UK down to a level three.
What does this mean?
Level three may not be in the green zone, but it’s definitely a step towards the right direction. Moving down to this level indicates that the rate of transmission is no longer rising rapidly. Furthermore, the burden on the national healthcare system has been lifted because the number of new cases and deaths have drastically reduced. Although the virus is still in circulation and the pandemic has not ended, this is a positive sign that life will be returning to normal in the UK.
De-escalation to level three
The criteria to downgrade to level three was that there had to be less than 10,000 new cases per day and no more than 25 cases per 100,000 people every week. The national R rate is also supposed to be below 1 for at least four weeks, and although the R rate did go slightly above 1 in England last week, the country has been able to meet most of the objectives so far. The chief medical officers of the UK and Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said in a joint statement:
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.