The health secretary has apologised for suggesting the country should not “cower” from coronavirus.
Sajid Javid has since deleted the tweet, which has caused backlash, including from bereaved families and opposition MPs.
He said the statement made yesterday was “a poor choice of word and I sincerely apologise”.
In the post, he announced his Covid symptoms were “very mild”, praising the vaccines and encouraging the public to get theirs.
“Please, if you haven’t yet, get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus,” he said.
Earlier today, he tweeted: “I was expressing gratitude that the vaccines help us fight back as a society, but it was a poor choice of word and I sincerely apologise.
“Like many, I have lost loved ones to this awful virus and would never minimise its impact.”
Jo Goodman, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, had said Javid’s original comment was “deeply insensitive on a number of levels”.
“Not only are they hurtful to bereaved families, implying our loved ones were too cowardly to fight the virus, but they insult all those still doing their best to protect others from the devastation this horrific virus can bring.
“Words matter and the flippancy and carelessness of this comment has caused deep hurt and further muddied the waters of the Government’s dangerously mixed messaging.”
Shadow justice secretary David Lammy and Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner have both slammed Javid’s comment.
Mr Lammy wrote: “129,000 Brits have died from Covid under your Government’s watch.
“Don’t denigrate people for trying to keep themselves and their families safe.”
Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Munira Wilson said Mr Javid’s tweet was “outrageous” while thousands remain in hospital with Covid.
“His careless words have insulted every man, woman and child who has followed the rules and stayed at home to protect others,” she said in a statement.
“He owes them all, especially the millions who are shielding, an apology.”
Public health expert Devi Sridhar said his remarks would be “painful to read for those who were severely ill” and those who lost loved ones to Covid-19.
The professor at the University of Edinburgh wrote: “It wasn’t because they were weak, just unnecessarily exposed to a virus.
“And wanting to avoid getting Covid isn’t ‘cowering’ – it’s being sensible and looking out for others.”
Javid received a positive Covid test result on 17 July which ultimately sent prime minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak into isolation as his close contacts.
The pair initially tried to avoid isolation by saying they were taking part in a testing pilot, but backed down in the face of widespread public criticism.
Related: PingU-turn? Humiliation for Johnson and Sunak who will now self isolate after outrage
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