Sajid Javid has said he wants a “return to normal” to happen “as quickly as possible”.
Speaking to the media for the first time since being appointed health secretary, Javid said Matt Hancock “will have more to offer in public life”.
Hancock resigned on Saturday after video footage emerged of him kissing an aide in his ministerial office in a breach of coronavirus restrictions.
Javid, a former chancellor, was drafted in from the backbenches to replace him.
He said: “I was honoured to take up this position. I also know that it comes with a huge responsibility and I will do everything I can to make sure that I deliver for this great country.
“We are still in a pandemic and I want to see that come to an end as soon as possible and that will be my most immediate priority, to see that we can return to normal as soon and as quickly as possible.”
Javid added: “I just want to start by saying I think Matt Hancock worked incredibly hard, he achieved a lot, and I’m sure he will have more to offer in public life.”
The change of health secretary comes shortly before the government’s decision as to whether or not to end England’s lockdown on July 19.
Javid’s appointment marks a return to the top of politics after he abruptly left the cabinet in shock fashion some 16 months ago.
He was just six months into his role as chancellor, and less than a month away from delivering his first Budget, when he quit after being told to sack all his advisers if he wanted to keep his job.
His departure in February last year came after a bruising Whitehall power struggle with Boris Johnson’s then chief adviser Dominic Cummings.
In a letter to the prime minister, Hancock said: “The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis.”
He said: “We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance.
In a video posted on Twitter, Hancock said: “I understand the enormous sacrifices that everybody in this country has made, you have made. And those of us who make these rules have got to stick by them and that’s why I’ve got to resign.”