'We'll be prepared for new variants': Sajid Javid unfazed as England scraps Covid rules

22 February 2022, 08:57

Sajid Javid says the UK is prepared for future Covid variations
Sajid Javid says the UK is prepared for future Covid variations. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Will Taylor

The UK will see other Covid variants arrive as England scraps its Covid rules – but we will be prepared, the health secretary has vowed.

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Sajid Javid told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast that he hoped we "never have to go there again" with lockdowns but believes the best form of defence from any changes to coronavirus will come from vaccinations.

He also believes the use of antivirals - along with the announcement of booster jabs for older adults and vulnerable people - will boost Britain's protection as the Government aims to live with Covid.

Speaking on Tuesday morning, Mr Javid warned: "We might be done with it, but it's certainly not done with us."

He went on: "We can be certain that I think that there will be another variant. I think there's near scientific consensus on that.

"We just don't know if it's going to be more dangerous or something that is not too different from Omicron. But we will be prepared.

"We can all play continue to play our part in the preparations of keeping our defences strong by getting vaccinated. And as I said, yesterday, there was a recommendation to have a second booster, if we call it that, for over 75s, for older people living in care homes, for the immunosuppressed over the age of 12.

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"And I've accepted that and that will start in the spring. We will continue that defence but also, it's worth thinking that this thing is still out there."

He suggested he would still wear a mask in situations such as the on the Tube and said it was right to emphasise personal responsibility, allowing people to decide for themselves when to take precautions.

Asked if he believed the UK could avoid a future lockdown - for example, if cases spiked or a new variant emerged - Mr Javid said: "I hope we never have to go there again.

"You asked about face masks and things that I don't want to see that again.

"But I think that by focusing on the defences that we do have the vaccinations, the treatments, the antivirals... the other treatments that we have, the testing that we will continue for more vulnerable, the testing that we will continue in vulnerable settings. I think these are the right set of measures as we look ahead."

In England, people will no longer need to self-isolate after testing positive from Thursday, and "routine" contract tracing will stop.

The £500 isolation payment for people on low incomes will no longer exist but sick pay measures will continue for a further month.

Free rapid tests will end in England on April 1, except for the oldest and most vulnerable, while guidance over twice-weekly tests in schools will also end.

Some experts have warned the end of measures was premature. England's chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty said anyone who contracts Covid should still isolate.

Boris Johnson hailed the end of Covid rules as a moment of "national pride".

Meanwhile, Mr Javid denied a rift with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, which was reportedly the reason behind the delay in a plan for clearing the NHS care backlog.

He told Nick he couldn't "wish for a better colleague" and was lucky to enjoy the teamwork he did.