Sajid Javid criticised for saying COVID deaths are 'mercifully low'

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·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
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Health Secretary Sajid Javid during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture date: Tuesday October 19, 2021.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on COVID-19 (PA Images)

The health secretary has been criticised for describing the numbers of people dying from COVID-19 as "mercifully low".

At his first COVID Downing Street press conference since being appointed health secretary, Sajid Javid told reporters: "Deaths remain mercifully low but they are still over 100 a day.

"This pandemic is not over."

The number of COVID-related deaths reported on Wednesday was 223, the highest since March 2021.

Daily confirmed case numbers have been above 40,000 for eight days in a row.

The health secretary's comments have sparked backlash from COVID experts, including Dr Zubaida Haque, a member of the unofficial Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage)

WATCH: What is the COVID situation and could we be facing another lockdown?

"When was the last time this government talked about 'saving lives'?" she said.

"Deaths up 21% this week – edging closer to 1,000 per week. How is that acceptable?

"[The] government and Sajid Javid have stopped talking about "saving lives" because they think some lives don't matter".

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Kit Yates, also a member of Independent Sage, criticised the health secretary, too.

"I don’t think averaging the equivalent of 50,000 deaths a year is mercifully low and I don’t think the loved ones of those dying at the moment would think so either," said Yates.

Justin Madders, Labour MP and shadow health minister, also condemned Javid's comments.

"Since the start of September there have been 6,496 deaths from COVID," he said.

"That is more than the total deaths for April, May, June, July and August combined.

(Yahoo News)
(Yahoo News)

"That is not 'mercifully low' Sajid Javid."

During the press conference, the health secretary urged people to get their booster jabs – saying they were key to getting through the pandemic and avoiding the reintroduction of social distancing measures.

He also asked people to think about making some changes to the way they socialise, such as meeting outside if possible.

He also reiterated a warning that daily case numbers could hit 100,000.

Britain's Health Secretary Sajid Javid (R) and UK Health Security Agency Chief Executive, Jenny Harries attend a press conference inside the Downing Street Briefing Room in central London on October 20, 2021. - Britain's Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Wednesday rejected calls to trigger
Cases of COVID-19 are rising rapidly. (Getty Images)

Despite the rises in cases, deaths and hospitalisations, Javid dismissed calls for the introduction of the government's COVID Plan B, saying the NHS was not yet under "unsustainable" pressure.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency and head of NHS Test and Trace, warned things were heading in "the wrong direction".

"We're a long way off [the first peak] but it's a very different epidemiological picture," she said.

"We know there was a very high death toll in the first half of the pandemic... Things are still moving in the wrong direction."

The conference did provide some cause for optimism.

Javid announced the UK had struck deals for 480,000 courses of two antiviral drugs which should be approved for use by the end of the year.

Watch: Sajid Javid says the government will not move to its COVID plan B yet:

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