What are the five levels of Covid-19 alert in the UK?

The Joint Biosecurity centre has recommended that the Covid-19 alert level rises to level four – meaning an epidemic is “in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially”.

This contrasts to level three, which signals that an “epidemic is in general circulation”.

The decision was announced in a joint statement issued by the Chief Medical Officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

“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,” the CMOs said. 

“If we are to avoid significant excess deaths and exceptional pressure in the NHS and other health services over the autumn and winter everyone has to follow the social distancing guidance, wear face coverings correctly and wash their hands regularly.

“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.”

So what are the five different levels and what are they likely to mean to us and daily life? 

Level one (green)

For our lives to return to normal, we would need no transmission of infections in England. This situation is currently only foreseen in the event of a successful vaccine being administered across the country. Oxford University hopes to have a vaccine ready by as early as September.

Likely response: No venue closures; clinically vulnerable able to leave homes.

Level two

The Government would need to be confident that virus transmission was at minimal levels.

Likely response: Shops and restaurants could be allowed to open with social distancing measures. Supermarkets have already successfully implemented social distancing and restaurants are considering ways to space out tables. Clinically vulnerable people are likely to be advised to remain indoors.

Level three (orange)

The number of new infections would not be increasing significantly. The reproduction rate, or R number, would be below one, meaning that each infected person is transmitting the infection to less than one other, on average.

Likely response: Partial lockdown, although with significant relaxations compared to level four.