People will have to live with Covid in “the way that we live with flu”, according to Michael Gove.
The Cabinet Office minister explained that the only way to eliminate the chance of getting the disease would be to maintain a level of lockdown damaging to people’s mental health
It comes after virologists urged caution over the easing of lockdown measures amid a rise in cases of the virus.
Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Gove said that the UK remains in a position to open up progressively, despite case numbers being at a “higher level than we’d ideally want”.
In the Commons on Monday, newly-appointed UK health secretary Sajid Javid said the Government could see “no reason” to go beyond July 19 for lifting England’s lockdown restrictions.
In Scotland, August 9 has been set as the date for lifting Covid restrictions in the country.
“All governments – the UK Government, the Scottish Government and others – look at a range of evidence,” Gove said.
“So, of course case numbers are important, but it’s also important to look at the rate of hospitalisation and it’s also important to look at the mortality figures as well.
“And what we’ve seen is that with the success of our vaccination programme, even as case numbers have risen, we’ve seen the link between case numbers rising and hospitalisation having been weakened so that far fewer people are being hospitalised.
“Those who are in hospital are there for a shorter period of time and the people who face the gravest consequences, the numbers there are declining as well.
“So, the vaccination programme means that we are in a position to be able to progressively open up, even as case numbers remain at a higher level than we’d ideally want.”
Gove said that the success of the vaccination programme across the UK has enabled the country to be opened up.
He said: “Of course we always keep facts under review, but on the basis of everything that we can see at the moment, we recognise that lockdown overall has had an effect on people’s mental health, it’s had an effect on the economy.
“But we’ve put public health overall first, that is why we have worked in order to ensure that we can roll out a vaccination programme which enables us to open up.
“And it’s been the success of that vaccination programme that does allow us to open up.
“We’re going to have to live with Covid in the way that we live with flu as a disease that is there that needs to be managed and vaccination and effective public health measures are the way to go.”
Gove added: “You can’t have zero Covid. The only way in which you can eliminate the chance of getting the disease is by maintaining a level of lockdown that would be damaging to people’s social life, damaging to people’s mental health.”