Covid: UK alert level downgraded by health chiefs from 3 to 2

But new surges of virus likely, experts warn

Jane Dalton
Wednesday 31 August 2022 16:42 BST
UK approves first Covid-19 booster vaccine to target two variants

The UK’s Covid-19 alert level is being downgraded, health chiefs have announced – but they warned further surges of the virus are likely.

The chief medical officers of the four UK nations and the NHS England national medical director have told ministers the level should be changed from 3 to 2.

A level 2 designation means the virus is still in general circulation in the UK, but direct Covid healthcare pressures are low and transmission is declining or stable.

The five medical bosses said levels of the latest, more infectious, variants of the virus are subsiding.

A spike in cases earlier this summer, largely due to Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, led to a rise in deaths.

Although the infection rate has now subsided, fears persist that the UK could be hard hit by a fresh wave in autumn when the weather turns colder.

But the medical chiefs said in a statement: “Hospitals and the wider health systems remain extremely busy overall but the summer BA.4 and BA.5 wave is subsiding and direct Covid severe illness is now a much smaller proportion of this.”

Severe Covid cases, direct Covid healthcare pressures, direct Covid deaths and official government estimates of infections had all decreased.

“Covid remains present in the community and we may see an increase in cases with BA 4.6 and BA.2.75 circulating but do not expect this to lead to an immediate increase in hospital pressures,” they added.

This will be kept under review, the Department for Health and Social Care said.

“Further Covid surges are likely so please be prepared by getting a vaccination when it is offered,” the medical chiefs said.

Scientists say it is rare to be reinfected with Covid within three months, but possible.

This month, the number of deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales fell for the first time in nearly two months.

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