Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

UK coronavirus alert level raised as cases surge

‘We know this will be a concerning news for many people; please follow the rules, look after each other and together we will get through this’

Vincent Wood
Monday 21 September 2020 18:05 BST
Coronavirus in numbers

The Joint Biosecurity Centre has recommended the Covid-19 alert level for the UK be increased to Level 4, meaning transmission of the virus is "high or rising exponentially", the UK's chief medical officers have said.

The move was backed by the chief medical officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - with all four nations moving up a rung of the government’s rating system.

The Covid-19 alert level operates on a scale of one to five - with five being the most severe scenario where the rate of reproduction for the virus, or R number, is significantly above one.

In its most recent assessment, Westminster’s Department for Health and Social Care put the R number for the country at between 1.1 and 1.4 - meaning that for every 10 infected people, the virus is passed on to between 11 and 14 others.

In a statement the Joint Biosecurity Centre, which is tasked with advising the government on its coronavirus response, said: “After a period of lower Covid cases and deaths, the number of cases are now rising rapidly and probably exponentially in significant parts of all four nations. 

"We know this will be a concerning news for many people; please follow the rules, look after each other and together we will get through this.”

It comes after grave warnings from the UK’s chief scientific and medical advisers - Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Valance - on a potential incoming surge of cases across the UK - with more than 200 deaths a day predicted if the current rate of infection is not halted.

The most recent daily figures from the government saw the number of infections increase by 4,368. Numbers reported on a Monday have typically been lower than those presented over following days, due to fewer tests being completed on weekends.

In response to the new rating, health secretary Matt Hancock said: “The raising of the alert level announced by the UK CMOs reflects the significant shift in the current threat posed by coronavirus.

“This country now faces a tipping point in its response and it is vital everybody plays their part now to stop the spread of the virus and protect lives.

“The first line of defence has always been all of us playing our part, remembering hands, face and space, the rule of six and self-isolation of those who risk passing on the virus.”

Boris Johnson is expected to make a statement to the public later this week after days of talks with ministers and experts on how best to respond to the growing rates of infection. 

In Northern Ireland extra restrictions on social gatherings are to be imposed as of tomorrow - with no mixing of two households indoors, except for single-person bubbles and certain other exemptions, from 6pm. 

Meanwhile no more than six people from two households will be allowed to meet in private gardens.

And in Scotland a leaked document revealed a “rolling lockdown” is being considered, shutting down pubs, restaurants, entertainment venues, playgrounds and church services for two weeks to coincide with the school holidays.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson and the leaders of the devolved administrations had agreed to act with a "united approach, as much as possible" in tackling coronavirus.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "Earlier today, the prime minister had calls with the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland about how coronavirus is spreading across the country.

"During these calls, the prime minister made clear that the rising infection rates are a cause for great concern, which he is taking very seriously.

"He reiterated his unwavering commitment to working with the devolved administrations as we continue to tackle the virus. They all agreed to act with a united approach, as much as possible, in the days and weeks ahead."

Additional reporting by agencies.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in