THE UK’S coronavirus alert level has been reduced down from level 4 to level 3 in a move Health Secretary Matt Hancock is describing as a “big moment for the country”.
Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer joined representatives from England, Scotland and Wales in recommending the level be reduced.
The change indicates that coronavirus is now viewed as less of a threat to the UK public than it previously posed.
Under the UK government’s definitions, level 4 referred to a situation where coronavirus "transmission is high or rising exponentially".
Level 3 by contrast, indicates the Covid-10 epidemic is in "general circulation".
It comes as the gradual relaxation of restrictions continues, with non-essential shops reopening in the UK earlier this week.
Family are also beginning to see loved ones again.
In practical terms, this means there is a gradual relaxation of restrictions from Level 4.
We are seeing such moves being implemented in the four nations, with non-essential shops having already reopened or with plans to reopen.
There has also been a slight relaxation of measures which means people can see family and loved ones.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The UK moving to a lower alert level is a big moment for the country, and a real testament to the British people’s determination to beat this virus.
“The government’s plan is working. Infection rates are rapidly falling, we have protected the NHS and, thanks to the hard work of millions in our health and social care services, we are getting the country back on her feet.”
The level change comes following a recommendation from the chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In a joint statement, they said: "There has been a steady decrease in cases we have seen in all four nations, and this continues.
"It does not mean that the pandemic is over. The virus is still in general circulation, and localised outbreaks are likely to occur.
"We have made progress against the virus thanks to the efforts of the public and we need the public to continue to follow the guidelines carefully to ensure this progress continues."
While plans are being discussed for the reopening of pubs, restaurants and leisure facilities in England, Northern Ireland has yet to outline the new steps out of lockdown.