The UK's coronavirus rate is "high or rising exponentially", experts have warned, as the country's Covid-19 alert level is set to be increased.

On Monday afternoon, the Joint Biosecurity Centre has recommended the Covid-19 alert level for the UK be increased to Level 4.

In a statement, the chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland explained their decision to raise the alert level.

It said: "The Joint Biosecurity Centre has recommended that the Covid-19 alert level should move from level 3 (a Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation) to level 4 (a Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially).

"The CMOs for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have reviewed the evidence and recommend all four nations of the UK should move to Level 4.

Coronavirus UK
The UK's coronavirus alert level is set to rise to four, medical experts have warned

"After a period of lower Covid cases and deaths, the number of cases are now rising rapidly and probably exponentially in significant parts of all four nations.

"If we are to avoid significant excess deaths and exceptional pressure in the NHS and other health services over the autumn and winter everyone has to follow the social distancing guidance, wear face coverings correctly and wash their hands regularly.

"We know this will be concerning news for many people; please follow the rules, look after each other and together we will get through this."

Coronavirus UK
This means the infection rate in the UK is 'high or rising exponentially'

It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced a government U-turn on childcare provision.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, the minister said grandparents would be able to break lockdown to help look after grandchildren.

More than 15 million people across the UK - around 23% of the entire population - are now under some form of local lockdown.

UK lockdown
More than 15 million people nationwide are now under some form of second lockdown

In England from tomorrow, those living in Merseyside, Warrington, Halton, Wolverhampton and Oadby and Wigston will all be under fresh restrictions.

Rules are also being extended to cover all of Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale and those living in all of Lancashire except for Blackpool.

In Wales, more than a quarter of people are under local lockdown, while today, Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster announced the province's entire population will be banned from visiting each other's homes from tomorrow.

Coronavirus lockdown levels
The government's lockdown levels explained

The UK was first placed at alert level four when the system was introduced in May.

In June the alert level was lowered to three as daily case numbers started coming down.

The highest Covid alert level is five, and means "there is a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed".