The Level 5 alert was announced on January 4 as lockdown measures were introduced by Boris Johnson amid fears the health service could be swamped within 21 days.
The decision to reduce the alert to Level 4 has now been made by the UK’s four chief medical officers and NHS England’s medical director because the number of cases in hospital are “consistently declining”.
Scotland’s Dr Gregor Smith, England’s Professor Chris Whitty, Northern Ireland’s Dr Michael McBride, Wales’s Dr Frank Atherton and NHS England’s Professor Stephen Powis announced the decision on Thursday following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre.
They said health services across the four nations “remain under significant pressure with a high number of patients in hospital”, but thanks to the efforts of the public numbers are now “consistently declining, and the threat of the NHS and other health services being overwhelmed within 21 days has receded”.
They added: “We should be under no illusions – transmission rates, hospital pressures and deaths are still very high.
“In time, the vaccines will have a major impact and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated when they receive the offer.
“However for the time being it is really important that we all – vaccinated or not – remain vigilant and continue to follow the guidelines.”
The announcement came as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson defended his plans for the replacement of cancelled A-level and GCSE exams in England.
He insisted results decided by teachers will be fair amid concerns the plan will lead to grades being inflated.
Mr Williamson confirmed to MPs that “no algorithm” will be used to decide grades this summer, with the judgment of teachers relied on instead and any changes made by “human intervention”.
Exam boards will carry out checks to “root out malpractice”, he said.
Addressing the Commons about plans for grading, he said: “Ultimately, this summer’s assessments will ensure fair routes to the next stages of education or the start of their career. That is our overall aim.”