A top scientist launched a stinging attack on Sajid Javid after the “frightening” Health Secretary compared the Covid pandemic to flu and signalled he is determined to lift all Covid restrictions on July 19.
Professor Steve Reicher, who advises the government as part of SAGE, hit out at the newly-appointed minister after he used a Daily Mail article to say Brits must learn to live with Covid “as we already do with flu”.
The broadside from the St Andrews University academic comes as the Government revealed face masks and the one-metre plus rule will be dropped as part of ‘Freedom Day’.
Taking to Twitter, Prof Reicher said: “It is frightening to have a ‘Health’ Secretary who still thinks Covid is flu, who is unconcerned at levels of infection, who doesn’t realise that those who do best for health also do best for the economy, who wants to ditch all protections while only half of us are vaccinated.
“Above all, it is frightening to have a ‘Health’ Secretary who wants to make all protections a matter of personal choice when the key message of the pandemic is “this isn’t an ‘I’ thing, it’s a ‘we’ thing. Your behaviour affects my health. Get your head around the ‘we’ concept”.
“Which why we accept that I shouldn’t have the choice to act in ways that remove your choice, that I can’t drive as fast as I like in town and why -as the BMA (British Medical Association) council chairman puts it: “It makes no sense to remove restrictions in their entirety in just over two weeks’ time”.”
Professor Robert West, of University College London’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, meanwhile called the removal of Covid curbs in two weeks’ time “bonkers”.
He tweeted: “It’s like having a government that thinks road safety should be completely up to ‘individual responsibility’: no traffic lights, no highway code, no law about driving on the left, no crash barriers, … Absolutely bonkers.”
Mr Javid has defended the removal of restrictions later this month, however, saying the “health arguments are equally compelling”, as he referenced a rise in mental health issues and domestic violence.
Writing for the Daily Mail, he said: “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.”
Meanwhile, Professor Adam Finn, from the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said he was worried about the global progress of the virus could still have knock-on effects for Britain.
He told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme: “There are obviously countries where they’re in fourth and fifth waves now, and I’m worried about that not just out of a sense of fairness for the people around the world, but actually also for us in the UK.
“We’ve had this experience in the last two months of importation of a much more infectious virus from India.”
Prof Finn said that will happen again if the pandemic goes forward “unchecked around the world”, causing a worse problem.
“And I think that’s the most likely scenario to cause a fourth or fifth wave in this country that would be out of control,” he said.