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Chief medical officer ruled Covid alert level must not come down despite Boris Johnson hinting it would as lockdown eased

Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty ruled the Covid alert level should not come down from 4 to 3 (PA)

2 min read

Downing Street has confirmed that the chief medical officer for England ruled that the country’s Covid alert level should not come down.

That is despite the Prime Minister suggesting changes to ease the coronavirus restrictions would be introduced because the figure was being reduced from 4 to 3.

Level 4 of the Government's Covid alert system represents an “epidemic in general circulation” with “transmission high or rising exponentially”, while at 3 it is deemed to be “in general circulation”. 

Mr Johnson's roadmap for easing lockdown measures had said any changes “must be warranted by the alert level”.

But that requirement was not mentioned when he confirmed the lifting of measures from from the start of this week.

Instead the Prime Minister said the level was “moving towards three”, while Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said we are “transitioning from level 4 to level 3”.

A Number 10 spokesman on Tuesday stressed that the latest changes - which allow up to six people to meet outdoors from this week - showed that the Government was “moving forward at a very gradual rate”.

But Number 10 confirmed that the final decision on the alert level rested with Prof Whitty, 

Asked about the threat level, the Prime Mins said: “In terms of setting of the alert level it's ultimately for the chief medical officers, who are informed by the data which has been collected, collated and analysed by the Joint Biosecurity Centre.”

When quizzed on to why that move was not the JBC’s decision, as had been indicated when the threat system was introduced, the spokesman said the group’s role was to “provide advice and analysis for chief medical officers".

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