Sajid Javid says no chance of another lockdown as COVID deaths up 65% in a week
Watch: Newly appointed health secretary pledges an irreversible lifting of restrictions
Sajid Javid has said the UK will not be placed into another lockdown despite deaths rising by 65% week on week.
The new health secretary told the Commons on Monday that COVID restrictions "must come to an end" and should be "irreversible".
Javid also reiterated the government's intention for 19 July to be the end of all measures in England after the final lockdown lifting - originally planned for 21 June - was delayed by a month.
His comments come despite the recent surge in coronavirus deaths as cases continue to spread across the UK, driven by the Delta variant, which first originated in India.
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The total number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test hit 122 in the week up to Monday.
This is a 65% increase on the number of deaths in the preceding seven days, according to the latest government data.
In his first Commons statement since replacing Matt Hancock, Javid said: “We want every step to be irreversible and make no mistake, the restrictions on our freedom, they must come to an end.
“We owe it to the British people, who have sacrificed so much, to restore their freedoms as quickly as we possibly can and not to wait a moment longer than we need to.
“With the numbers heading in the right direction, all while we protect more and more people each day, July 19 remains our target date.
The new health secretary said he spent his first day in the job on Sunday looking at the coronavirus data and “testing it to the limit”.
He also said: “The prime minister has called it out ‘terminus date’. For me, July 19 is not only the end of the line, but the start of an exciting new journey for our country.
Watch: New health secretary Sajid Javid sets off for work
“At this crucial moment in the fightback against this pandemic, we must keep our resolve and keep on our road map to freedom so that together we can beat this pandemic and build back better.
“It is a task that I am deeply honoured to lead and one I know will succeed,” he said.
Javid also resisted pressure from Tory MPs to bring forward the date of Step 4 of the road map, but he said there was “no reason” why the July 19 deadline would not be met.
“We know we cannot simply eliminate it, we have to learn to live with it,” he added.
However, some experts criticised the stance of "living with" the virus, saying the exponential growth in infections still risks a huge human cost.
Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, and University of Oxford, said younger people who have yet to have the vaccine still face the risk of long COVID.
He said: “These are real families and lives blighted, we must bring down the number of cases to reduce suffering.
“The more infections the more opportunity for new variants, something I would suggest is not ideal.
“There is no “living with” this rate of exponential growth in infections, to claim so is the same magical thinking that has been discredited wave after wave, country after country."
Prof Naismith added that the continuing rise of delta in population with a high number of vaccinated individuals, disproves the model of herd immunity by infection being within reach.
"The human cost had we experimented with these fringe ideas and let the virus rip in autumn / winter is surely evident to every person in the UK,” he added.
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