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Coronavirus: UK reduces COVID-19 alert level amid a 'steady decrease in cases'

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Customers walk along Portobello Road Market in London, Wednesday, May 27, 2020.
Customers walk along Portobello Road Market in London, Wednesday, May 27, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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UK government officials have announced a reduction in the country's COVID-19 alert level as they slowly phase out lockdown restrictions.

The country's medical officers recommended the country move from Level 4 where "a COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation and transmission is high or rising exponentially" to Level 3 where "a COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation".

The reduction in alert level is due to "a steady decrease in cases we have seen in all four nations," said the four medical officers of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

"It does not mean that the pandemic is over. The virus is still in general circulation, and localised outbreaks are likely to occur," the medical officers added in a statement posted to the government's website.

"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."

There have been more than 42,000 deaths in the United Kingdom and over than 300,000 positive coronavirus cases, which is the highest death toll in Europe.

Health minister Matt Hancock tweeted that this was a "big moment for the country, & a real testament to the nation’s determination to beat this virus."

The UK began easing restrictions in early June with the opening of some schools, a move they later dropped, determining that fully opening schools would not be possible until September.

Just last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the infection rate was still too high to ease restrictions further.

Stores gradually began opening in the UK in June but restaurants and bars remain closed for the moment.

But many are eager to open up the country more, as the economy has been heavily impacted by the lockdown restrictions.

The UK GDP in April was 25% smaller than it was in February after seeing the biggest fall "the UK has ever seen," according to the Office for National Statistics.

Meanwhile, the number of people claiming unemployment benefits rose by 125.9% since the beginning of lockdown in late March.