Boris Johnson has given the formal go-ahead for the latest relaxation of coronavirus lockdown restrictions in England on 17 May, giving the green light for people to hug friends and family and stay at each other’s houses overnight.
Medical chiefs have agreed to lower the UK’s Covid alert level to three as the vaccination programme and lockdown restrictions ease pressure on the NHS. The new level means transmission of the virus is no longer high or rising exponentially.
It comes as an expert has said the UK is in a "very good position" against emerging coronavirus variants, with vaccines working and disease rates falling, after Public Health England (PHE) upgraded the strain first detected in India - B.1.617.2 - to a variant of concern
Sharon Peacock, director of the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK), and professor of public health and microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said that, based on current evidence, there is nothing to suggest the Indian variant causes more severe disease than the Kent variant which is dominant in the UK.
However, she warned a lack of evidence is not the same as no evidence, and that there is just not enough data at the moment.