Most immediate priority is to get through pandemic, says Javid

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Sajid Javid said his “most immediate priority” would be to get the coronavirus pandemic across the country, as he took up the post of health secretary.

Speaking to the media for the first time since taking over from Matt Hancock on Saturday, Mr Javid said he recognizes “the enormous responsibility” placed on him.

And he pledged to “do whatever I can to make sure I deliver for this great country.”

Mr Javid’s return to Cabinet came just 90 minutes after Mr Hancock announced his resignation on Saturday, following leaked video footage showing him breaking social distancing rules by kissing an aide in his ministerial office .

Mr Javid, former Chancellor and Home Secretary, said Mr Hancock had worked ‘incredibly hard’ and ‘accomplished a lot’, and added: ‘We are still in a pandemic and I want this to happen. ends as soon as possible and that will be my most immediate priority, to see that we can get back to normal as soon as possible and as quickly as possible. “

Although the pandemic is at the forefront of Mr Javid’s mind, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said he would have a number of other issues to tackle, including social care.

Mr Hunt was told on The Andrew Marr Show that when he was in the job he had not been able to overhaul the industry in six years.

But asked how long Mr Javid had, he replied: “Six months, because the government said it will do it by the end of this year, and I know Sajid will want to honor that promise.”

Meanwhile, British Medical Association Chairman of the Board Dr Chaand Nagpaul said Mr Javid should be ‘honest’ with the public in tackling a backlog of care and negotiating the resources the NHS has. need.

He told Sky News there was “a record of over five million patients on waiting lists” which “does not include around 20 million patients who were not seen in outpatient clinics. Last year”.

He added, “A lot of these patients will get sicker over time. Many of them have health problems which, if not treated quickly, will become more serious.

“And what he’ll have to do is deal with this crisis in a way that prioritizes, but also be honest with the public about how long it’s going to take.”

Mr Javid’s appointment came after Boris Johnson was initially blocked by Mr Hancock following the Sun newspaper’s revelation at around 1 a.m. Friday of CCTV footage that showed him kissing Gina Coladangelo, taken on last month.

Matt Hancock with Councilor Gina Coladangelo (Yui Mok / PA)

Reports suggest Mr Hancock was made aware of the footage Thursday evening and he apologized on Friday after it was posted but did not immediately resign.

Number 10 said the Prime Minister considers the matter closed following Mr Hancock’s apology, but pressure increased throughout the day and until Saturday, and Tory MPs began to demand the departure of Mr. Hancock.

Shortly after 6 p.m. on Saturday, Mr Hancock said he went to see Mr Johnson to submit his resignation as his personal life threatened to distract from the pandemic effort.

And less than two hours later, Mr. Javid had been confirmed in the post.

Asked about Trevor Phillips on Sky News on Sunday about whether Mr Hancock thought it was fair to step down once criticism increased, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said: “Matt in his own letter, I think, said – and ultimately I think – that he probably made the right judgment in that he doesn’t want this situation around him to distract him from that key goal and key government work, which is to provide service to people on the pandemic and as we come out of the pandemic. “

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis on the Andrew Marr Show (Jeff Overs / BBC / PA)
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis on The Andrew Marr Show (Jeff Overs / BBC / PA)

He added: “I think it was right that the Prime Minister and Matt focused, even in the last two days, on ensuring that this experience, this knowledge that has been acquired over the last year and a half or so in dealing with the pandemic, was there to be able to focus on the pandemic.

“And I don’t think it’s at all contradictory for Matt to also take the opportunity to look at the situation and think and decide that his position is distracting from the work that came out of the pandemic and I think that Matt’s credit, that he doesn’t just focus on his family, but on the country at large and the best interests of the UK. “

But shadow housing secretary Lucy Powell said the fact that Mr Hancock was not sacked by the Prime Minister on Friday demonstrated a “very dangerous blind spot”.

She told Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “These are the tough decisions of leadership and I’m afraid the Prime Minister has a very dangerous blind spot when it comes to questions of integrity and conduct in public life and it It really is a big deal and it is an even bigger problem when you are in the midst of a pandemic and asking the public to also have integrity and conduct in the way they lead their own lives. “

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