Covid-19: Compelling health argument for easing lockdown – Javid
There is a “compelling” argument that easing Covid restrictions is needed for the country’s health, Sajid Javid says.
The health secretary said that while the steps taken had “saved countless lives”, rules had caused a “shocking rise” in domestic violence and a “terrible impact” on mental health.
We need to “learn to live” with Covid, he added, acknowledging that “cases are going to rise significantly”.
All legal restrictions are expected to be lifted in England on 19 July.
The government is expected to set out the broad direction of travel it hopes to follow in the coming days, with a shift away from rules and moving towards personal responsibility.
Mr Javid’s comments come after doctors warned that some measures should be kept beyond July, with the British Medical Association (BMA) calling the rise in infections alarming.
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Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Javid said: “The economic arguments for opening up are well known, but for me, the health arguments are equally compelling.
“But no date we choose will ever come without risk, so we have to take a broad
and balanced view. We are going to have to learn to accept the existence of Covid and find ways to cope with it – just as we already do with flu.”
“Rules that we have had to put in place have caused a shocking rise in domestic violence and a terrible impact on so many people’s mental health,” he added.
He said England was “on track” to meet the fourth and final stage of lockdown lifting – but the government had to be honest with people about the fact that “we cannot eliminate Covid”.
“We also need to be clear that cases are going to rise significantly. I know many people will be cautious about the easing of restrictions – that’s completely understandable.
“But no date we choose will ever come without risk, so we have to take a broad and balanced view. We are going to have to learn to accept the existence of Covid and find ways to cope with it – just as we already do with flu.”
Mr Javid warned the backlog facing the NHS would get “far worse before it gets better”, as millions of people had avoided coming forward for healthcare during the pandemic.
“We protected the NHS to make sure it was there for everyone who needed care. The steps we took saved countless lives but also led to the build-up of a vast ‘elective’ backlog – checks, appointments and treatments for all the less urgent, but often just as important, health issues.”
A further 24,885 Covid cases and 18 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were recorded in the UK on Saturday.
The BMA said that the number of people admitted to hospitals in England with Covid-19 had risen by 55% in a week.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chairman, called the jump in cases “alarming” – fuelled by the spread of the Delta variant and increased social mixing.
“It makes no sense to remove restrictions in their entirety in just over two weeks’ time,” Dr Nagpaul said.
The BMA called for the continued use of face masks and new ventilation standards, among other measures.
Meanwhile, a psychologist warned that letting fully vaccinated people avoid measures such as self-isolation risked a “loss of compliance” more generally.
Prof Robert West said the move – which ministers are said to be considering for after restrictions end in England – could breed “resentment” and encourage those without both jabs to ignore the rules.
Mr Javid replaced Matt Hancock as health secretary last weekend.
Mr Hancock resigned after he breached social distancing guidance by kissing an aide.