Britain’s new health secretary said Monday he is confident that England is on track to remove the country’s remaining coronavirus restrictions on July 19, stressing that the rapid vaccination rollout is “breaking the link” between soaring infection numbers and serious illnesses and deaths.
Sajid Javid told Parliament that all the figures he’s seen suggested that the country is “heading in the right direction,” and said that “the restrictions on our freedoms must come to an end.”
His confident tone came despite widespread concerns about a third surge in infections in the UK driven by the spread of the more contagious delta variant.
Government figures on Monday showed another big spike in infections, with 22,868 confirmed cases.
That’s the highest daily figure since late January, though the number was likely inflated by the fact that the previous day’s figure of 14,876 was artificially low because of incomplete data for England.
“No date we choose comes with zero risk for COVID — we know we cannot simply eliminate it, we have to learn to live with it,” Javid said.
“People and businesses need certainty, so we want every step to be irreversible.”
Javid was named health secretary Saturday after his predecessor, Matt Hancock, stepped down following revelations that he was having an affair with an old friend he had hired as an adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care.
Hancock was forced to step down amid outrage that he had broken social distancing rules by kissing his adviser in his office.
Critics saw Hancock’s exit as the latest example of cronyism and hypocrisy at the heart of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, which has been accused multiple times of not practising what it preaches throughout the pandemic.