Just days before U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus epidemic, health officials in Britain quietly lowered the official threat level for the pandemic, saying the COVID-19 virus did not meet the criteria to qualify as a “high consequence infectious disease” (HCID).
U.K. health officials had tentatively identified COVID-19 as an HCID in late January, but said in a March 19 statement it was rescinding its interim decision.
“This was based on consideration of the U.K. HCID criteria about the virus and the disease with information available during the early stages of the outbreak,” the statement said.
“Now that more is known about COVID-19, the public health bodies in the UK have … determined that several features have now changed; in particular, more information is available about mortality rates (low overall), and there is now greater clinical awareness and a specific and sensitive laboratory test, the availability of which continues to increase.”
The statement said a government body that deals with pathogens agreed the virus did not merit the HCID designation, but also added that the risk to the U.K from the outbreak “has been raised to high.”