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HEALTH SECRETARY Sajid Javid was forced to apologise today after a wave of fury greeted his social media comment that the country should not “cower” from coronavirus.
Mr Javid Tweeted on Saturday that he had made a full recovery after suffering “very mild symptoms” of Covid-19 “thanks to amazing vaccines.”
But after then urging people to get vaccinated “as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, the virus,” he was deluged with thousands of angry responses, some from people who had lost loved ones and many from NHS and other key workers astounded by the comment.
Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice co-founder Jo Goodman described Mr Javid’s remarks as “deeply insensitive” and insulting to people who had shielded and stayed at home to protect society.
Ms Goodman said: “Not only are they hurtful to bereaved families, implying our loved ones were too cowardly to fight the virus, but they insult all those still doing their best to protect others from the devastation this horrific virus can bring.
“Words matter and the flippancy and carelessness of this comment has caused deep hurt and further muddied the waters of the government’s dangerously mixed messaging.”
A stinging letter from the campaign told Mr Javid: “Our loved ones did not cower from the virus. They were the health and social care workers caring for patients while awaiting new supplies of PPE
“They were factory workers who turned their machines towards production of food and PPE in the early days of the pandemic.
“They were bus drivers keeping the country moving, ensuring doctors and nurses made it into the hospitals to tackle this pandemic head-on.
“The carelessness and flippancy of your words betray the sacrifice so many of our loved ones have made. Words and their usage matter.”
Nearly 24 hours after his initial post, Mr Javid announced that he had deleted it, adding: “I was expressing gratitude that the vaccines help us fight back as a society, but it was a poor choice of word and I sincerely apologise.
“Like many, I have lost loved ones to this awful virus and would never minimise its impact.”
Keep our NHS Public co-chairman Dr Tony O'Sullivan rejected the former merchant banker’s apology, saying: “Javid competes with Hancock for crass arrogance and total lack of empathy.
“He who ‘would never minimise’ the impact of coronavirus dismisses the warnings of public health experts, exhausted NHS staff and bereaved families as cowering before Covid, while he pushes the grotesquely irresponsible policy of letting Covid rip to achieve herd immunity.
“More death and suffering on their hands.”
Public health expert Professor Devi Sridhar said that Mr Javid’s remarks would be “painful to read for those who were severely ill,” and those who lost loved ones to Covid-19.
Prof Sridhar wrote: “It wasn’t because they were weak, just unnecessarily exposed to a virus.
“And wanting to avoid getting Covid isn’t ‘cowering’ — it’s being sensible and looking out for others.”
Labour shadow minister for disabled people Vicky Foxcroft pointed out that more than three million people had shielded during the first and second waves of the pandemic at the government’s request, and that more than one in 60 were estimated still to be doing so.
“There are still many questions for the immunocompromised population over the level of protection that the vaccine gives them.
“These people aren’t cowering away from the virus, they are just trying to stay safe.”
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