‘MY TASK is to return the economic and cultural life that makes this country so great,’ new Tory Health Secretary, Sajid Javid said in his first statement to Parliament in that role yesterday.
Javid was appointed after Health Secretary Matt Hancock was forced to quit after being photographed in a clinch with his aide, during lockdown.
Ex-Chancellor Javid focused on the need to re-open the economy.
He said: ‘There remains a big task ahead of us, to restore our freedoms, freedoms that no government should ever wish to curtail.
‘That task,’ he went on, ‘has been made even more difficult with the emergence of the Delta variant, which now makes up almost 95% of cases in the UK.
‘Not only does it spread more easily, but the evidence points to a higher risk for those who have not been vaccinated needing hospital treatment, compared to the previously dominant Alpha variant.
‘The race between the virus and the vaccine led our government to the difficult decision to pause Step 4 on our Road Map until the 19th July.’
Despite an ‘uptick’ in cases and a rise in hospitalisations Javid went on to announce the economy will fully open on 19th July.
He said: ‘The number of people needing hospital treatment for Covid-19 has doubled since the start of May. Admissions are most clearly increasing in the north east and the south west of England.’
However, he added: ‘Make no mistake the restrictions on our freedoms must come to an end … July 19 remains our target date.’
He said: ‘I look forward to working with colleagues on all sides of the House as we together work on this vital mission.’
Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth had warm words for Hancock.
Ashworth said: ‘Can I just say at the outset that despite our fierce political differences, my dealings with the Secretary of State were always courteous, respectful and professional and I wish him well in resolving his personal difficulties.’
Addressing Javid he went on: ‘He will find working with the NHS and social care staff both inspirational and rewarding and I hope he will agree and make arrangements for them to see a fair pay rise and not the real terms pay cut that has been pencilled in.’