The world can no longer think only about Covid-19 and ignore the other critical health issues, economic problems and education challenges that have built up during the pandemic, health secretary Sajid Javid said on Tuesday.
“We can’t live in a world where the only thing that we are thinking about is Covid – and not about all the other health problems, our economic problems, our education challenges and we have to make use of a vaccine that is thankfully working,” he told Sky News.
“When I came into this department with a fresh set of eyes – it is shocking when you look at all the other health problems that have built up: Some seven million people have not come forward during the pandemic for help from the NHS with their health problems.”
His comments came just a day after prime minister Boris Johnson set out plans to end social and economic Covid-19 restrictions in England from July 19, a test of whether a rapid vaccine rollout offers enough protection from the highly contagious Delta variant.
After imposing the most onerous constraints on behaviour in Britain’s peacetime history to battle the novel coronavirus, Johnson is betting the vaccination programme, which has weakened the link between infections and hospital admissions, can prevent the health service being overwhelmed by a new wave of Covid-19.
Britain has suffered the seventh highest global death toll from Covid-19, and Johnson has been accused of being too slow to implement each of England’s three lockdowns.
But the take-up of vaccines in Britain has been strong, with 86 per cent of adults receiving a first dose and 64 per cent receiving two doses as of Monday, according to government data.
Public Health England figures indicate that the vaccines are highly effective in preventing the Delta variant from leading to severe illness or hospital admission, especially after two doses.