Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said that lockdown restrictions in England are not being eased in a “reckless or big bang way” after being asked if the move had been made before the country’s coronavirus alert level had been lowered from level four to level three.
But what is the alert system and how does it work?
– What is the alert system?
The Covid Alert Levels system was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his televised address to the nation on May 10.
The system is similar to that used to establish the terrorist threat and will be run by a new Joint Biosecurity Centre.
It has five tiers from level one to five based on the spread of Covid-19 through the country.
– How does it work?
Mr Johnson said that the country’s current alert level will be determined primarily by the virus’ reproduction rate – the average number of people that will contract coronavirus from an infected person – and the number of coronavirus cases.
The level will then inform the Government what measures are needed to combat the spread of the virus, with higher levels requiring stricter controls.
– What are the different levels?
When the scheme was launched the country was at level four which means a “Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation, transmission is high or rising exponentially”.
The system says that current social distancing measures and restrictions should remain in place.
Level five is when transmission is high or rising but also when there was a risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed and will require an increase in social distancing measures.
Level one means there Covid-19 is no longer known to be in the UK and the only action should be “routine international monitoring”.
Level three is when the epidemic is in general circulation and gradual easing of restrictions can take place, while level two is when the number of cases and transmission is low and “no or minimal” restrictions are required.
But under level two there will be enhanced testing, tracing, monitoring and screening.
– Who monitors and sets the level?
Mr Johnson said he was establishing a new Joint Biosecurity Centre to run the alert system.
Cabinet Office documents said that the centre will provide real time analysis and assessment of Covidd-19 outbreaks at a community level to enable rapid action to stop spikes in infection.
It will also advise on specific actions which can be taken to manage rising numbers of infections, such as closing schools or businesses.
The centre will also inform the chief medical officers of a change in the Covid-19 Alert level who will then advise ministers.