Sajid Javid apologises for saying people should no longer 'cower' from Covid

25 July 2021, 11:38 | Updated: 25 July 2021, 14:27

Sajid Javid has apologised for saying people should no longer "cower" from Covid-19
Sajid Javid has apologised for saying people should no longer "cower" from Covid-19. Picture: Alamy / Twitter
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has apologised for his "poor choice of word" after saying people should no longer "cower" from Covid.

The recently appointed Cabinet minister came under fire for saying on Saturday that people must "learn to live with, rather than cower from" coronavirus.

Responding, shadow justice secretary and LBC presenter David Lammy said he had "insulted" people who followed the rules to protect others, while the Lib Dems demanded an apology to vulnerable people who have shielded from the disease.

Mr Javid, who tested positive a week ago after receiving two doses of the vaccine, revealed on Saturday that he had made a full recovery.

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He then urged people to get their jabs after reporting that he had experienced only "very mild" symptoms.

The health secretary added on Twitter: "Please, if you haven't yet, get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus."

But on Sunday, Mr Javid chose to remove the post, saying he did not intend to understate the impact of the virus.

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He wrote on Twitter: "I've deleted a tweet which used the word "cower". 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."

The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, which criticised the minister's initial tweet as "deeply insensitive", said he was right to apologise.

It also repeated an earlier request for Mr Javid to walk the National Covid Memorial Wall with the group's members "to understand the hurt and insult his poor choice of word still remains".

Prior to the apology, Mr Lammy joined a chorus of people on social media questioning the health secretary's use of the word cower.

"129,000 Brits have died from Covid under your government's watch," the Labour MP wrote.

"Don't denigrate people for trying to keep themselves and their families safe."

Lib Dem health spokeswoman Munira Wilson branded Mr Javid's tweet as "outrageous" while thousands remain in hospital with Covid.

"His careless words have insulted every man, woman and child who has followed the rules and stayed at home to protect others," she said in a statement.

"He owes them all, especially the millions who are shielding, an apology."

Public health expert Devi Sridhar said his remarks would be "painful to read for those who were severely ill" and those who lost loved ones to Covid-19.

The professor at the University of Edinburgh 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 & looking out for others."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were forced to self-isolate following Mr Javid’s positive test, despite initially trying to avoid doing so.

The pair said they would participate in a daily contact testing pilot to allow them to continue to work from Downing Street.

But just hours later, amid widespread public criticism, they pulled a full U-turn, withdrawing from the pilot scheme and confirming they would isolate.

The PM's quarantine in his Chequers country residence is expected to end late on Monday, as is Mr Sunak's.

Mr Javid became health secretary at the end of June when Matt Hancock stepped down after being caught on camera kissing an aide, in breach of coronavirus rules.

The successor has been seen as more strongly in favour of lifting Covid measures and most remaining legal rules in England were ended on Monday.