London, Sep 22 : The UK's Chief Medical Officers (CMO) have recommended raising the country's Covid-19 alert level from 3 to 4 due to a recent spike in the number of new cases, according to a joint statemen.
"The CMOs for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have reviewed the evidence and recommend all four nations of the UK should move to level 4," Xinhua news agency quoted the statement as saying on Monday.
Level 4 means that the virus is in general circulation, transmission is high or rising exponentially.
After a period of low Covid-19 cases and deaths, the number of new infections are "now rising rapidly and probably exponentially in significant parts of all four nations", said the CMOs.
The UK recorded another 4,368 new cases overnight on Monday, which increased the overall tally to 398,625, according to the latest official figures.
The death toll currently stood at 41,877.
"If we are to avoid significant excess deaths and exceptional pressure in the NHS (National Health Service) and other health services over the autumn and winter, everyone has to follow the social distancing guidance, wear face coverings correctly and wash their hands regularly," said the CMOs.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said raising the Covid-19 alert level will reflect a "significant shift" in the threat posed by the virus.
"The raising of the alert level announced by the UK CMOs reflects the significant shift in the current threat posed by coronavirus," he said on Monday.
"This country now faces a tipping point in its response and it is vital everybody plays their part now to stop the spread of the virus and protect lives."
To tackle the rising coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair an emergency COBRA meeting on Tuesday.
COBRA, named after Britain's Cabinet Office Briefing Room A on Whitehall, gathers ministers, civil servants, the police, intelligence officers and others appropriate to whatever they are looking into in an emergency response.
"Tomorrow morning is an opportunity for COBRA to discuss what next steps may be required in the coronavirus response," Johnson's spokesman said.
The pandemic in the UK is currently doubling around every seven days and that "if we continue on this trajectory, we could see 50,000 cases a day by mid-October", said Hancock.
In addition to new rules of social distancing, the government is also making effort to crank up its daily testing capacity, which is now at 253,521 tests a day.
With more labs established, the capacity is expected to increase in the coming months.