The world can no longer think only about COVID-19 and ignore the other critical health issues, economic problems and education challenges that have build up during the pandemic, Britain’s health minister said on Tuesday.
“We can’t live in a world where the only thing that we are thinking about is COVID - and not about all the other health problems, our economic problems, our education challenges and we have to make use of a vaccine that is thankfully working,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Sky News.
“When I came into this department with a fresh set of eyes - it is shocking when you look at all the other health problems that have built up: Some 7 million people have not come forward during the pandemic for help from the NHS with their health problems.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out plans on Monday to end social and economic COVID-19 restrictions in England in two weeks’ time, a test of whether a rapid vaccine rollout offers enough protection from the highly contagious Delta variant.
After imposing the most onerous constraints on behaviour in Britain’s peacetime history to battle the novel coronavirus, Johnson is betting the vaccination program, which has weakened the link between infections and hospital admissions, can prevent the health service being overwhelmed by a new wave of COVID-19.
Britain has suffered the seventh highest global death toll from COVID-19, and Johnson has been accused of being too slow to implement each of England’s three lockdowns.
But the take-up of vaccines in Britain has been strong, with 86 percent of adults receiving a first dose and 64 percent receiving two doses as of Monday, according to government data.
Public Health England figures indicate that the vaccines are highly effective in preventing the Delta variant from leading to severe illness or hospital admission, especially after two doses.