British Health Secretary Sajid Javid has tested positive for Covid-19, just two days before “freedom day” – and despite having had both doses of vaccine.
Mr Javid is just weeks into the job, after being appointed by Boris Johnson to replace Matt Hancock.
In a video message he said: “I just wanted to tell everyone that I’ve tested positive for Covid. I was feeling a bit groggy last night, so I took a lateral flow test and it’s come out positive. So I’m now self-isolating at home with my family until I get the result of a PCR test. I’m grateful that I’ve had two jabs of the vaccine, and so far my symptoms are very mild.”
If the more accurate PCR test confirms Mr Javid has Covid, he’ll be the second Health Secretary to have contracted the virus. Earlier this week, Mr Javid visited a care home in London, where he said: “I’m not just the Health Secretary – I’m the Social Care Secretary too and I’m determined to do all I can for staff, residents and families across the country.”
Mr Javid also gave a speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday, and is understood to have met with the Prime Minister yesterday. Most coronavirus rules in England are set to be axed on Monday – despite warnings that the NHS faces a “serious situation” with surging infection and hospitalisation numbers.
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said earlier: “The warning light on the NHS dashboard is not flashing amber, it is flashing red.”
Professor John Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said new infections could reach 100,000 a day within weeks. And Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer warned hospitalisations were doubling every three weeks and could hit “scary numbers” in future.
Boris Johnson has repeatedly said he wants the lifting of lockdown on so-called “freedom day” to be “irreversible”, but in recent days ministers have begun to sound more cautious. While social-distancing rules in England will come to an end, Government guidelines advise face masks should still be worn in enclosed spaces such as in shops and on public transport, while pubs and bars should be table service only.
Mr Javid said: “I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved in our national vaccine rollout programme, truly the best of its kind anywhere in the world.
“If you haven’t had your jabs yet, please get out there and get them as soon as you can.
“And if you like me feel a bit groggy, or you think you might have come into contact with someone who’s positive, please also take a lateral flow test too.”
He added: “If everyone plays their part, we’re not only protecting yourself and your loved ones, you’re also safeguarding the NHS and helping to safeguard our way of life.”
Jeremy Hunt, chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said the way people behave as controls end will be crucial in determining the path of the pandemic over the coming months.
He pointed to the examples of Israel and the Netherlands, which have been forced to reintroduce controls despite high levels of vaccination like the UK.
“Covid hospital patients are doubling every two weeks. That means we are heading for 10,000 Covid hospital patients by the end of August, which is about 20 times higher than this time last year,” he said.
“I think coming into September we are almost certainly going to see infections reach a new daily peak going above the 68,000 daily level which was the previous daily record in January.
“If they are still going up as the schools are coming back I think we are going to have to reconsider some very difficult decisions. How we behave over the next few weeks will have a material difference.”
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