Following advice from the UK Health Security Agency and in the light of the rapid increase in Omicron cases, the UK Chief Medical Officers and NHS England National Medical Director have recommended to Ministers that the UK COVID Alert Level should increase from Level 3 to Level 4.
UK COVID Alert Level increased from Level 3 to Level 4
Transmission of COVID-19 is already high in the community, mainly still driven by Delta, but the emergence of Omicron adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and healthcare services.
Early evidence shows that Omicron is spreading much faster than Delta and that vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced. Data on severity will become clearer over the coming weeks but hospitalisations from Omicron are already occurring and these are likely to increase rapidly.
When vaccine protection is reduced in the way that is happening with Omicron it is essential to top up that protection with a booster. Both booster vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) increase the immune response substantially and show good effectiveness although with some reduction compared to Delta.
The NHS is currently under pressure mainly driven by non-COVID pressures. With a variant spreading with increased transmissibility and reduced vaccine effectiveness, we are likely to see this pressure rise soon.
It is extremely important that if you are eligible, you get your COVID vaccination now – whether this be your first, second or booster dose.
People should continue take sensible precautions including ventilating rooms, using face coverings, testing regularly and isolating when symptomatic.
Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty
Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, Professor Sir Michael McBride
Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Professor Gregor Smith
Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton
NHS England National Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis
Escalating from level 3 to level 4
- is the UK weekly case rate more than 250 per 100,000 population?
- is the national R reliably estimated to be R>1?
- is the doubling time of confirmed new infections less than 7 days?
- are there more than 30,000 estimated new infections in the UK per day?
- are COVID-19 related hospital admissions increasing at ≥25% over the same 7-day period?
- is COVID-19 related hospital occupancy increasing at ≥25% over the same 7-day period?
- are COVID-19 related high dependency units (HDU) or intensive care units (ICU) admissions increasing at ≥25% over the same 7-day period?
- is COVID-19 related HDU or ICU occupancy increasing at ≥25% over the same 7-day period?
- are new daily COVID-19 related deaths increasing at ≥25% over the same 7-day period?
- is current direct COVID-19 absolute healthcare pressure sufficiently high to support escalation to level 4?