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During the pandemic, a prominent scientist in the UK has reported receiving a barrage of malicious messages, some of which included violent threats against his family such as having their throats slit. This was revealed during the UK’s Covid inquiry.
Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam revealed that receiving hate mail, which prompted police intervention, caused him to contemplate resigning from his position as deputy chief medical officer for England.
Jonathan, who departed from his position in March of the previous year, expressed on Wednesday that although his role required a significant amount of work and caused stress, he “was not anticipating my family to be put in danger with threats of violence.”
The individual stated that they were surprised to hear the police ask them to vacate their residence either at night or in the evening for a short period of time while they investigated and possibly made arrests.
Ultimately, the family decided not to relocate because they were unwilling to part with their cat.
Jonathan, the sir, discussed the workload during the beginning of the pandemic. He mentioned working every day of the week and described it as “terrible for all of us”.
After Sir Jonathan finished giving his testimony, Baroness Heather Hallett, the chairwoman of the inquiry, told him: “Regarding the mistreatment and intimidation you mentioned before, I have encountered such despicable behavior in a different situation and I understand the impact it can have on the individuals who receive it, as well as their loved ones. Even if you did not receive threats, it seems like your family may have.”
“It’s just too awful to contemplate.
“I simply want to remind you, although it may not be necessary, that the vast majority of the population strongly disapprove of such behavior. We are extremely appreciative of you and your colleagues for your service to the public of this country and the entire United Kingdom during this national crisis.”
“Please disregard the disruptive and foolish individuals. The majority of us are appreciative.”
Sir Jonathan also shared his personal encounter with the pandemic during the hearing. He also mentioned that in January 2020, he grew increasingly worried about the impact of the virus on the UK.
He realized that this was a new form of coronavirus and that it was spreading between people.
During the inquiry, Sir Jonathan expressed his concern that the situation would result in significant trouble and potentially become a pandemic.
He stated that his work experience, combined with reports of the virus spreading in China, led him to believe that “we were headed for a difficult period.”
During his testimony to the investigation, Sir Jonathan stated that on January 16, 2020, he was fully aware that it was only a matter of time before things would advance.
Nonetheless, the speaker acknowledged that Sir Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, made the correct decision not to convene the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) or the Cabinet Office Briefing Room (Cobra) as he was getting overly enthusiastic about something based on intuition.
When asked about sharing his perspective with Sir Chris currently, Sir Jonathan explained that there is a variety of viewpoints on scientific matters and determining when the data is conclusive enough to make assessments. Additionally, individual personalities also play a role in shaping opinions.
Although Chris and I are good friends and coworkers, we have different personalities. While I am more impulsive and tend to jump into action, Chris is more calculated and would carefully consider if a task is worth pursuing before taking any action.
He stated: “Regardless, I was under Chris’s authority and I value the hierarchy, therefore I was satisfied with the response I received.”
During his testimony to the investigation, Sir Jonathan expressed his surprise that Boris Johnson, who was the prime minister at the time of the pandemic, did not attend the initial five Cobra meetings regarding the coronavirus outbreak. He noted that the situation was continuously worsening at each of these meetings.
He also criticized the former British leader for stating that he would still shake hands on March 3, 2020, despite the advice published on the same day to use alternative ways of greeting. He deemed this statement as misinformed and unhelpful.
Sir Jonathan, like Mr Johnson, encountered difficulties in accessing his previous mobile phone. He admitted that he could not recall the passcode for his former Government-issued phone, and the WhatsApp messages related to the Covid outbreak have been unintentionally erased.
However, he stated that the discussions were probably obtainable from other individuals, so he did not believe that the limited access would negatively impact the investigation conducted by the inquiry.
Sir Jonathan also gave evidence on measures taken to control the virus and actions taken by Public Health England (PHE).
During the inquiry, he stated that PHE’s risk assessment was inadequate as the Covid-19 outbreak began.
He stated that the risk assessment system may have let us down in the sense that it may be highly precise, and he is not doubting the decision-making abilities of his PHE or other health protection colleagues. However, the issue is that it only pertains to the present moment.
Unfortunately, attempting to determine the implications for the future leads to significant uncertainty, which is a major issue.
Sir Jonathan added: “I think it’s very unfortunate that (the risk assessment) can be read as, well, (the risk) is low, just forget about it.”
In addition, Sir Jonathan informed the inquiry.
It is uncertain if the UK could have prevented mandatory lockdowns by taking earlier action.
– If Covid-19 infections persisted at the same rate during the initial months of the pandemic, the NHS would inevitably suffer severe strain.
The potential impact of outdoor sporting events on the spread of Covid-19 may have been overlooked. While large outdoor gatherings have a minimal effect on the spread of the virus, there is greater concern about infection risks in indoor establishments like pubs, bars, and restaurants, as well as the movement of fans across borders.
The tiered restrictions implemented in various regions during the pandemic were not effective.
He wrote a letter to the Cabinet secretary cautioning against the dangers of lifting the first national lockdown in order to make a clear statement.
The Government’s plan, known as Operation Moonshot, to implement widespread testing for Covid-19 was deemed illogical from an epidemiological standpoint and unlikely to be successful.