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The Joint Biosecurity Centre has recommended that the COVID-19 alert level should move from level 3 (COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation) to level 4 (COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation, transmission is high or rising exponentially), as the UK is experiencing a rapid rise in coronavirus cases.

After reviewing the evidence, the four Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have recommend all four UK nations should move to level 4.

The CMOs are urging UK citizens to follow social distancing guidelines, wear face coverings and wash their hands regularly to avoid “significant excess deaths” and additional strain on the NHS and other health services over the autumn and winter.

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“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 4 nations,” the statement reads. “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.”

Moving the COVID-19 alert level from level 3 to level 4

At the beginning of August 2020, a letter was issued throughout the NHS signalling that the service had entered the third phase of its coronavirus response and detailed the NHS’ priorities.

As levels of the virus had lowered in the UK, the NHS was directed to prioritise meeting the needs of non-COVID patients, which had been building during the pandemic, starting with the most urgent clinical cases first. The NHS was also directed to partially restore key health services, including all cancer services and community services.

At the time, the UK coronavirus alert level sat at level 3, meaning that the virus remained in general circulation with localised outbreaks.

However, as the number of new COVID-19 cases have risen at significant levels over the last 30 days, the UK CMOs are recommending all four nations to move to coronavirus alert level 4.

According to the latest figures from the UK Government, on 23rd August 2020, there were 1,160 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the UK. By 18th September 2020, this figure has almost quadrupled, with the number of new cases in the UK hitting 4,322.

In a recent statement to Parliament, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We know that the epidemic is currently doubling around every 7 days and that if we continue on this trajectory, we could see 50,000 cases a day by mid-October.”

Level 4 indicates a high or rising level of COVID-19 in the UK, which means a number of new, tighter measures will be enforced across all four nations.

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