‘Rules are rules!’ What Jonathan Van-Tam said before quitting deputy chief medical role

COVID-19: Van-Tam says it could be a few 'bumpy' months ahead

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Sir Jonathan is to step down as England’s deputy chief medical officer, it was announced yesterday. The scientist, who has been one of the Government’s key public figures during the pandemic, will continue in his post until the end of March. The medical chief carved out a reputation for using colourful metaphors to explain the complexities of COVID-19. His announced departure is a huge blow for Boris Johnson, who is embroiled in a scandal over an alleged Covid-rule-breaking party at Downing Street in May 2020.

Senior Conservatives have called on the Prime Minister to resign over the allegations, which he addressed in the House of Commons yesterday as he apologised over the event.

As scores of politicians have accused Mr Johnson of breaking the Covid rules, unearthed footage reveals how Sir Jonathan previously fired his own warning at those who flout the country’s restrictions.

Speaking at a coronavirus press conference in May 2020 – the month of the alleged party – Sir Jonathan declared that the “rules apply to everyone”.

He said: “In my opinion the rules are clear, and they have always been clear.

“In my opinion they are for the benefit of all and in my opinion, they apply to all.”

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The scientist was responding to a question about Mr Johnson’s former chief advisor Dominic Cummings.

Mr Cummings breached England’s lockdown rules by travelling to see his family during lockdown.

Sir Jonathan did not address the scandal directly but was unequivocal in his answer about the Government’s role in the pandemic.

He said: “This is a dual responsibility here of Government to go slowly and carefully and to take the advice from the scientists, of the scientists to watch this whole thing very closely over the next few weeks, and of the public in general, to actually follow the guidance.”

In one of his typically eye-catching turns of phrase, the professor then warned the public over breaking the rules due to the need to lower infection rates.

He said: “Don’t tear the pants out of it and don’t go further than the guidance actually says.

“Infections pass on in a moment with COVID-19 and then the incubation period is five days typically.

“And so, the next round of infections appears fairly quickly afterwards.

“In other words, this gets out of control quite quickly, if you allow it to.

“And then, as you’ve seen from the previous lockdown period, it then takes many weeks to get the brakes on it.”

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Sir Jonathan’s departure comes after he received a knighthood from the Queen in her New Year’s honours.

At the end of March, he will return to the University of Nottingham to become the pro-vice-chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

In a statement, he said it had been an “honour” to work with his colleagues, including Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, who was also recently knighted.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he was “hugely grateful” to have worked with Sir Jonathan and for his advice.

He said: “JVT’s one-of-a-kind approach to communicating science over the past two years has no doubt played a vital role in protecting and reassuring the nation and made him a national treasure.”

Sir Jonathan played a leading role in the country’s Covid vaccine rollout, even giving then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock his first jab last year.

The scientist also played crucial roles in the domestic outbreaks of MERS and Monkeypox and in the response to the Novichok poisonings in Salisbury, according to the Government.

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