COVID-19: UK coronavirus alert level ‘to be raised to 5’ – highest possible
The UK’s coronavirus alert level will be raised from 4 to 5 for the first time, government sources have said.
Level 5 or “red” means there is a “material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed”, compared to Level 4 when transmission of the virus is “high or rising exponentially”.
The COVID-19 alert level refers to the threat of the epidemic and is separate from the tiering system in England.
It is set by the Joint Biosecurity Centre, which includes all four nations’ chief medical officers, and determines how strict coronavirus restrictions should be.
The system was created in May, when the government mapped a way out of the initial lockdown – moving the alert level from 4 to 3.
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to address the nation from Downing Street at 8pm tonight in light of the rapid spread of the new variant of the virus.
A Number 10 spokesman said ahead of the announcement: “The spread of the new variant of COVID-19 has led to rapidly escalating case numbers across the country.
“The prime minister is clear that further steps must now be taken to arrest this rise and to protect the NHS and save lives. He will set those out this evening.”
Scotland has already announced it will lockdown almost all of the country from midnight on Tuesday, with schools closed until at least 1 February.
Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster will join a call with the government ahead of this evening’s announcement.
The Welsh government has not yet announced any further restrictions, with the country currently in Alert Level 4.
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