London (CNN)UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who recently tested positive for and recovered from Covid-19, has apologized after suggesting people shouldn't "cower" from Covid-19.
UK Health Secretary tweets people shouldn't 'cower' from Covid, before deleting it and apologizing
"I've deleted a tweet which used the word "cower," he said. "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 apologize," Javid said on Twitter on Sunday, a day after using the word in a tweet announcing that he had fully recovered from the virus.
"Like many, I have lost loved ones to this awful virus and would never minimize its impact," he added in his apology.
Javid tested positive for Covid last weekend, ultimately sending UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak into isolation because they were close contacts. Both are due to finish their quarantine on Monday.
"Please -- if you haven't yet -- get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus," Javid's deleted tweet said Saturday.
The Health Secretary's choice of words provoked a wave of anger from families of coronavirus victims and opposition lawmakers, with many asking him to apologize for his turn of phrase.
The campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK called the comments "deeply insensitive."
"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," the group said in a Twitter post.
The opposition Labour party's deputy leader Angela Rayner had asked the Health Secretary to apologize for his comments, adding in a tweet: "NHS and social care heroes & all of our key workers did not 'cower.' They risked their lives to keep us all safe."
The Liberal Democrats party health spokeswoman Munira Wilson called the tweet "outrageous, while thousands remain in hospital with Covid-19."
The UK suffered a devastating first wave in 2020, followed by a troubling winter in the wake of the discovery of the Alpha (Kent) variant., attributing to one of the highest numbers of Covid-19 related deaths in the world -- nearly 129,000 since the pandemic started.
Johnson's government has been widely condemned for being slow to implement pandemic control measures, such as mask mandates and lockdowns, as the virus began to spread in spring 2020.
As of July 24, more than 83 million vaccination doses have been administered in the UK, with over 54% of the population fully vaccinated.
But despite the vaccination program's success, the country could be heading towards a potential new wave of Covid-19, fuelled by the Delta variant.
Almost all Covid restrictions were lifted in England last week, however cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been on the rise for about a month, with only the last five days showing a drop in cases -- highlighting the unpredictability of a new era of the pandemic in the UK.