June 19, 2020 / 9:27 AM / 14 days ago

UK lowers Covid-19 alert level to 'epidemic' from 'exponential'

People socialise while drinking alcohol, in London, Britain June 18, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) - The United Kingdom’s chief medical officers have agreed that the COVID-19 threat level should be lowered one notch to “epidemic is in general circulation” from “transmission is high or rising exponentially”.

The Joint Biosecurity Centre recommended the COVID-19 alert level should move to level 3 - a COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation - from level 4 - a COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially.

“There has been a steady decrease in cases we have seen in all four nations, and this continues,” the chief medical officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland said.

“It does not mean that the pandemic is over. The virus is still in general circulation, and localized outbreaks are likely to occur.”

The United Kingdom has a COVID-19 death toll of more than 50,000 based on official data including fatalities where it is mentioned on death certificates, making it one of the worst hit countries in the world.

More than 8.5 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 452,992​ have died, according to a Reuters tally.

When the UK threat level was introduced in mid May, the level was set at 4 - “a COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially”.

“The UK moving to a lower alert level is a big moment for the country, and a real testament to the British people’s determination to beat this virus,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton; editing by Sarah Young

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