Rattled Boris Johnson today admitted the nation’s coronavirus alert level is STILL at 4 – days after lockdown was eased for a second time.
The alert, set by a new Joint Biosecurity Centre, means Covid-19 is still “in general circulation” and “transmission is high or rising exponentially”.
The alert level has been at 4 since lockdown was imposed – even though lockdown has since been eased twice in England. It is the second-highest alert level possible.
Labour’s leader demanded answers today after it emerged Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the alert level could not be reduced.
But asked how the lockdown could be allowed to ease, furious Mr Johnson told Sir Keir: “He knows perfectly well that the alert level does allow it!”
He moaned Sir Keir did not raise the issue when they had a phone call – and said the key factor was the separate “five tests”, not the five alert levels.
The PM said: “So yes, the alert level remains at 4.
“But as SAGE will confirm we’ve managed to protect the NHS, we’ve got the rate of deaths down, we’ve got the rate of infection down, the PPE crisis, difficulties in care homes, the question of the R – they have been addressed.
“The question for him is whether he actually supports the progress we’re making at the weekend he was backing it, now he’s doing a U-turn.”
No10 has claimed the alert level is moving to Level 3 – which would mean Covid-19 is “in general circulation” but without high transmission – but is not there yet.
That is despite the fact people in England can now meet in groups of up to six outdoors, in a socially-distanced way, including for barbecues and in people’s gardens.
Schools also reopened in England for years R, 1 and 6 from Monday, along with car showrooms and outdoor markets.
Yet another 324 deaths of people with Covid-19 were confirmed yesterday – as the overall official death toll in the UK topped 50,000.
When the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) was announced last month, the government said it would “help inform decisions to ease restrictions in a safe way.”
The alert level was designed to “communicate the current level of risk clearly to the public”.
Yet ministers have since admitted the JBC is not yet “fully up and running”.
No10 claimed the government “were always clear” that changes to lockdown were based on the separate “five tests” – not the alert levels. Those are:
This breaking news story is being updated.