Sajid Javid has apologised for suggesting that the nation should not "cower" from coronavirus after his comments were branded insensitive by bereaved families and opposition MPs.
The newly-appointed Health Secretary deleted the tweet in which he made the comment and conceded it "was a poor choice of word and I sincerely apologise.”
He made the original comment when he disclosed on Twitter that he had made a "full recovery" from a Covid-19 infection and said his "symptoms were very mild, thanks to amazing vaccines", of which he has received two doses.
"Please, if you haven't yet, get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus," he added.
Jo Goodman, a co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, said it was "deeply insensitive on a number of levels,” but welcomed his decision to delete it.
"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," she said.
"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."
I've deleted a tweet which used the word "cower". 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.
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) July 25, 2021
Commenting on the original tweet, shadow justice secretary David Lammy said: "Don't denigrate people for trying to keep themselves and their families safe."
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 & looking out for others."
Responding to the criticism, Mr Javid 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."