Jonathan Van-Tam urged to flee home by police after his family received death threats during the pandemic, Covid Inquiry told
- England’s ex-deputy chief medical officer became a household name in 2020
- He told the probe that his family were threatened with having their throats cut
Jonathan Van-Tam was urged to flee his home by police after his family received death threats during the pandemic, the Covid inquiry heard.
England’s former deputy chief medical officer – who quit his role in March 2022 — became a household name during the Government’s response to the health emergency and is known for his calm demeanour and regular use of analogies.
But being thrust into the public eye as the UK battled soaring coronavirus infections meant JVT, as he is affectionately known, was also on the receiving end of violent messages as he sought to explain the science behind government decision-making.
He told the probe: ‘I did not expect my family to be threatened with having their throats cut.
‘I did not expect the police to have to say: “Will you move out in the middle of the night? Will you move out for a few days while we look at this and potentially make some arrests?”‘
Professor Sir Jonathan, England’s former deputy chief medical officer – who quit his role in March 2022 — became a household name during the Government’s response to the health emergency and is known for his calm demeanour and regular use of analogies
Sir Jonathan, knighted in last year’s New Year Honours list for his services to public health, was a member of the vaccines taskforce during his time as deputy CMO. He said he referenced the ordeal in his witness statement because of concerns experts may have in any future pandemic. Pictured, Sir Jonathan being made a Knight by the now Prince of Wales in June 2022
Sir Jonathan, who was knighted last year, said with his trademark humour that his family did not leave their home ‘because of the cat’, but added: ‘It was a very stressful time. And my family didn’t sign up for that.’
He said he referenced the ordeal in his witness statement because of concerns experts may have in any future pandemic.
‘I only make this point because I’m so worried that if there is a future crisis, people will not want to sign up for these roles and these jobs because of the implications that come with them,’ he said.
Also called JVT by colleagues, Sir Jonathan became a regular figure on TV screens throughout the lockdown, as he imparted his expertise knowledge during some of the daily coronavirus conferences.
READ MORE: Covid Inquiry: Chris Whitty rejects claims from Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson that scientists signed off on Eat Out to Help Out
The Boston United fan was famed for his memorable metaphors, such as comparing Covid to a ‘goalkeeper that can be beaten’ and the vaccine rollout to the ‘glide path to landing this plane’.
He sparked panic and worry across the UK in the early days of the Covid crisis, when admitting that the country may have to ‘live with’ the virus for years before a vaccine was found.
He also hit headlines in December, 2020 when he warned that Brits may wear face masks for years to come — even after a successful coronavirus vaccine became available.
Covid inquiry chairman Baroness Heather Hallett previously condemned thugs and trolls who subjected top scientists to abuse during the pandemic.
She made the unusual intervention to comment on evidence given to the inquiry in June after Professor Sir Chris Whitty warned ‘extremely concerning’ threats and intimidation from members of the public risked dissuading experts from helping in a future health crisis.
The harassment of Sir Chris and other prominent scientists also came amid a surge of conspiracy theories about the virus.
Last year, a thug who jeered at Sir Chris while he was held in a headlock was jailed for eight weeks and ordered to pay £1,058 in costs and compensation.
Jonathan Chew, 24, approached England’s chief medical officer as he walked through St James’s Park in Westminster on June 27 last year.
Lady Hallett, told Sir Chris she was ‘astonished and sorry’ to hear of the abuse.
She added: ‘It’s wrong for so many reasons, but I do know how distressing it can be so I hope that people will think twice – but of course they never do, do they? – before committing themselves to distressing acts unnecessarily.
Jonathan Chew, 24, approached England’s chief medical officer as he walked through St James’s Park in Westminster on June 27, 2021. Footage of the incident, lasting around 20 seconds and showing Chew alongside former estate agent Lewis Hughes, was widely shared on social media
‘There are so many different ways to express different opinions, why do we have to have personal abuse?’
Sir Jonathan also told the inquiry today that he was overwhelmed by the ‘horrendous’ and ‘very, very intense’ workload at the start of the pandemic, during which he was working up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
In further revelations, he admitted that lockdown measures introduced in March 2020 ‘could have been earlier’.
He added: ‘These measures would have all been better seven days earlier than they were. Lockdown measures could have been earlier.’
Addressing the probe, he added that with regards to risk assessments, while Public Health England’s (PHE) system may be ‘extremely’ accurate, it provides data in the current moment rather than offering a prediction in the future.
This means there is ‘massive uncertainty’.
Source: Read Full Article