UK cannot take Covid freedom 'for granted' and must 'stay on top' of pandemic says Sajid Javid

The UK cannot “take for granted” the fact that it is the “freest” country in Europe in terms of the coronavirus pandemic, the Health Secretary has said, believing the country has got to “stay on top of” the disease.

Sajid Javid thinks we are “currently in a very good position” as a result of decisions that have been made in the last few months, particularly the vaccine roll-out.

On a visit to Doncaster Royal Infirmary yesterday evening, he told The Yorkshire Post that the decision to prioritise booster

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vaccines at the end of last year when the Omicron variant emerged means that the UK is “the most boosted country in Europe”.

Sajid Javid on a hospital visit in London earlier this month (PA)Sajid Javid on a hospital visit in London earlier this month (PA)
Sajid Javid on a hospital visit in London earlier this month (PA)

He said: “It includes the decision to purchase antivirals, which are really Covid-specific treatments. We have the most antivirals per head in Europe – and it includes our testing.”

Mr Javid added: “And that means today as a result, we are the freest country in Europe. Now, we can’t take that for granted.

“There’s a lot of work that’s gone into that, particularly by the NHS, and we’ve got to stay on top of it.

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“But given that we know that Omicron, whilst it’s more infectious, it is milder than the Delta variant and has now become the dominant stream.

“I think we should take all that into account in whatever we do next.”

The Government is expected to unveil a ‘Living with Covid’ strategy when MPs return next week from a parliamentary recess.

It comes amid reports yesterday that the plan could include an end to free PCR and lateral flow testing.

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Mr Javid’s trip to Yorkshire yesterday is part of a series of visits this week to NHS sites across the country during the parliamentary break.

He told The Yorkshire Post that he wants to “make sure I get out of London as often as I can” to “see what’s actually going on” in the health service nationwide.

Doncaster Royal Infirmary is among the hospital sites that have put in bids for the Government’s new hospital building programme following major water leaks last year.

However, Mr Javid was unable to say precisely when the successful bids will be notified, and that the Government is currently “working through” the applications.

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Health Secretary Sajid Javid does not rule out suggestion end of free Covid test...

Speaking after his visit, Mr Javid said: “It was great to meet with the chief executive, but also I met with staff and had a meeting with many staff doing various roles.

“I had the opportunity to thank them, but also to listen to them about what’s needed here.

“I was also able to see the results on some recent investment, as I’ve just visited a new ward with 24 beds,

“It is a huge new operating theatre, I believe the biggest operating Doncaster Royal Infirmary has ever had.

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“And that was all put together in six months after the flood that they suffered in it. That was a investment that led to results immediately and it’s good to see that funding going in.

“As for the new investment and particularly the plan that’s been put together by the local NHS Trust for a new hospital – we have received that plan alongside other plans from other trusts that we’re working through those at the moment.”

A local MP has previously warned Ministers that a new hospital in the town is an “absolute necessity” following the two major water leaks in just six months last year.

Nick Fletcher, the Conservative MP who represents Don Valley, raised his concerns in the House of Commons in October last year following an incident in the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

In April last year, 67 patients had to be evacuated and routine procedures were cancelled after a leak in the building made contact with some electrical mains.