The change means that an attack on UK soil is now deemed “highly likely”.
It comes after gunmen – believed by Austrian police to have an Islamist motive – killed three and left several wounded on Monday night as they went on a shooting spree armed with an assault rifle, carrying other handguns, and wearing a fake explosive belt.
It came on the eve of Austria entering a month-long coronavirus lockdown – a move that England will follow on Thursday.
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Ms Patel tweeted: “The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre has changed the UK terror threat level from substantial to severe.
“This is a precautionary measure and is not based on any specific threat.
“The public should continue to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police.”