British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to unveil an alert system on Sunday to monitor the threat of the nationwide coronavirus outbreak, with different levels informing how and where the lockdown could be eased.
He will set out the plan in a televised address to the nation at 7pm (1800 GMT), as part of a wider strategy on how stay-at-home measures imposed in late March might be gradually eased.
The alert system will be monitored from a new centre for biosecurity and have five levels, informing the public and policy makers of the status of the outbreak across the country.
It is understood the system — with alerts ranging from green (level one) to red (level five) — will be similar to the one used to keep the public informed about the terror threat level.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News television: “At the moment we believe the country is at four on a scale of five, with five being the most concerning.”
“Our aspiration is to bring that down as swiftly as we can to three.
“And at each stage, at each of those milestones, we will be in a position to open up and restart more aspects of the economy and of our lives.”
The prime minister warned this week he would proceed with “maximum caution” in easing the lockdown as the number of virus deaths, at more than 31,500, has become the highest in Europe.
Jenrick confirmed any measures to re-open the economy would be taken with “great care and caution”, monitoring the effect of each one on the rate of infection in the community.
Media reports suggest the government will unveil a new communications strategy, no longer telling people to “stay home” but to “stay alert”.
“We should be staying at home as much as possible but when we do go to work and go back to our business we need to remain vigilant, we need to stay alert,” Jenrick said.
“That means things like respecting others, remaining two meters apart, washing your hands, following the social distances guidelines.”
The alert system will initially only apply to England, but the government hopes to extend it to Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Britain’s death toll is second only to the United States in the world, but is still likely to be an underestimate, as widespread testing was not available until very recently.