Don’t cry JVT fans, have a list of his best moments


Best ever JVT moments as he announces he's leaving government
Jonathan Van-Tam is stepping down from government after winning hearts and minds throughout the pandemic (Picture: PA)

Two years ago very few people outside of public health had ever heard of Jonathan Van-Tam.

Only those in the know were familiar with his love for an epic analogy or wearing ties bearing the colours of Boston United Football Club.

Now, he’s leaving government with an army of admirers and even a range of souvenir mugs and T-shirts made in his name.

If Covid has given us little else to cheer about, at least it brought us JVT – now Sir Jonathan – the ever-cheerful, warm-hearted deputy chief medical officer who has become a household name.

Whether rattling off a seemingly never-ending analogy for the state of the pandemic that day or returning to the frontline to personally administer jabs during the vaccine roll-out, he has firmly cemented himself as a national treasure during the long Covid-fight.

While some of his peers in the scientific community shied away from their new-found fame, JVT appeared to relish the limelight; bringing some much-needed humour to often grim daily updates during the darkest days of the pandemic.

True-to-form, late last year he marked a high point of his career – giving the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures – by ripping off his shirt and tie in a cloud of smoke.

After he announced that he’s returning to academia, we thought it was a good time to look back on some of our favourite JVT moments.

EMBARGOED TO 2230 FRIDAY DECEMBER 31 File photo dated 04/08/21 of Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, who has been awarded a Knighthood for services to Public Health in the New Year honours list. Issue date: Friday December 31, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Jonathan Van-Tam will leave his role at the end of March (Picture: PA)

When he compared the pandemic to a train journey

Sir Jonathan was very keen on comparing the country’s Covid fight to being on train – he returned to this analogy again and again while appearing at Downing Street Covid press conferences.

‘This to me is like a train journey, it’s wet, it’s windy, it’s horrible,’ he said on one memorable occasion.

‘Two miles down the tracks, two lights appear and it’s the train and it’s a long way off and we’re at that point at the moment. That’s the efficacy result.

‘Then we hope the train slows down safely to get into the station, that’s the safety data, and then the train stops.

‘And at that point, the doors don’t open, the guard has to make sure it’s safe to open the doors. That’s the MHRA, that’s the regulator,’ he said.

Sir Jonathan added: ‘And when the doors open, I hope there’s not an unholy scramble for the seats.

‘The JCVI has very clearly said which people need the seats most and they are the ones who should get on the train first.’

When he promised Father Christmas a Covid jab

Vaccines had just started to be administered in December 2020 and, despite his grand old age, there was concern that Father Christmas may miss out on his all important jab before the festive season.

Appearing on a BBC 5 Live phone-in Sir Jonathan took a call from a concerned mum-of-three whose children wanted to know if Father Christmas would be front of the queue.

‘Absolutely’, reassured JVT. ‘The JCVI made a very special case for Father Christmas and he is absolutely going to be the top of our list.’

When he ripped off his shirt before presenting a lecture

Asked to present the Royal Institute Christmas Lectures, JVT was clearly worried about whether he’d come across as too formal in the Downing Street briefings.

‘Good evening, I’m Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England and many of you will have seen me giving public health announcements from the podium at number 10 Downing Street,’ he said, introducing the talk.

He added: ‘But tonight is different’ before turning to face the camera and pointing down the lens to say ‘tonight, we’re going viral.’

In a Stars in their Eyes-esque cloud of smoke, he ripped off his shirt and tie, revealing a ‘casual’ outfit that wasn’t actually all that different from what he was wearing before.

As predicted, the clip did indeed go viral – only adding to JVT’s star appeal.

When he told us not to ‘tear the pants out of’ the guidance

In May 2021, people were finally being given more freedoms after long hard months in lockdown.

As part of step three of four on the Government’s road map out of lockdown, people were suddenly able to meet up to 30 other outside or in groups of up to six indoors.

Understandably, there was concern among scientists that some may take things too far while making the most of the end of restrictions.

Quite how carried away people could get was made clear when JVT warned the public ‘Follow the guidance. Don’t tear the pants out of it.’

Whether the phrase had the required effect remained unclear. In fact, it actually appeared to actually increase excitement, particularly among some JVT fans.

Writing on a Mumsnet thread about the professor’s sex appeal, one woman admitted it had made her feel a bit ‘weak at the knees.’

When he said Omicron was like a ‘red card’

Sir Jonathan, a keen football fan, often used football analogies to explain what was happening with the virus.

After telling us the vaccine had taken the match into extra time, the arrival of the Omicron variant threw a spanner in the works.

Never afraid of adding a few more layers of complexity to an already quite hard-to-follow analogy, JVT compared the situation to a football team where two key players had received a yellow card.

He said the rest of the team had to ‘up their game’ to prevent going down to 10 players – suggesting that in this case that meant getting a booster jab.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Jonathan Van Tam during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture date: Monday November 29, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Jonathan Van Tam is a ‘super fan’ of Boston United (Picture: PA)

He said that the initial vaccine was like having a full-strength team on the pitch and despite being weakened by injuries – the Alpha and Delta variants – substitutes had been able to ‘keep us in the game’.

He said: ‘Omicron is like now picking up a couple of yellow cards to key players on top.

‘We may be OK but we’re kind of starting to feel at risk that we might go down to 10 players and if that happens – or it’s a risk that’s going to happen – then we need everyone on the pitch to up their game in the meantime.’

He added: ‘We’re not going to wait for the red card to happen, we are going to act decisively now and we’re asking everyone to up their game, we’re asking everyone to play their part in the urgency now of the booster programme, coming forward the moment you are called by the NHS.’

We hope you followed all that.

When he brought the ‘vaccine plane’ into land

Sir Jonathan has also compared the progress on a vaccine to a plane coming into land.

But in typical fashion, he warned the descent wouldn’t all be plain-sailing, or plain flying in this case.

He told a press briefing: ‘Do I believe that we are now on the glide path to landing this plane? Yes I do.’

He added: ‘Do I accept that sometimes when you are on the glide path, you can have a side wind and the landing is not totally straightforward, totally textbook? Of course.’

When he returned to the NHS frontline to give out Covid jabs

Being deputy chief medical officer during a global pandemic is a pretty full-on job, we’d imagine.

You’d expect free time to come as a premium and would perhaps be best spent down the pub or taking a relaxing walk.

Not for JVT, who instead choose to volunteer on the vaccine programme to help as many vulnerable people as possible get their jabs.

In January 2021, pictures of the DCMO emerged of him jabbing people in Nottingham, close to where he lectures at the university.

He even gave then Health Secretary Matt Hancock his first Covid jab in April 2021.

Handout photo dated 10/01/20 taken with permission from the twitter feed of NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire CCG @NHSNottsCCG showing Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jonathan Van Tam (left) assisting with the Covid-19 vaccination programme at the Richard Herrod Centre in Nottingham. PA Photo. Issue date: Wednesday January 13, 2021. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: @NHSNottsCCG/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Jonathan Van-Tam helps give out jabs to vulnerable adults in Nottingham in January 2021 (Picture: PA)

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