UK Covid alert raised to level 4, second-highest tier, just before PM addresses nation

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The UK’s Covid alert level has been increased to level 4 – its second-highest level – following advice from the UK Health Security Agency and amid a rapid increase in cases of the Omicron Variant.

In a statement, the government said: “Early evidence shows that Omicron is spreading much faster than Delta and that vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced.”

The upgrade to level 4 means health authorities think rates of transmission are high and pressure is being placed on healthcare services.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to give an address to the nation later this evening on the COVID vaccine booster programme.

Here is what each alert level means:

Level 5 – The highest on the scale, this indicates there is a “material risk” of the NHS being overwhelmed. Reaching this level would involve tighter social distancing measures.

Level 4 – This means the COVID-19 epidemic “is in general circulation” and that “transmission is high or rising exponentially”.

Level 3 – While this level also suggests the epidemic is “in general circulation”, it omits the statement “transmission is high or rising exponentially”.

It would mean a gradual reduction in social distancing measures and restrictions.

Level 2 – To shift to this level, the government guidance says the virus would be present in the UK, but that the number of cases and transmission is low.

It says this would then allow “no or minimal social distancing measures”, but with enhanced “testing, tracing, monitoring and screening”.

This level has not been reached since the system was introduced.

Level 1 – The level which the government eventually hopes to reach, this would indicate “COVID-19 is not known to be present in the UK”.

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Written by

Claire Gordon