Sir JVT could not attend his investiture... because he had Covid!

Sir JVT has Covid! Nation’s favourite virus guru missed his Windsor Castle investiture ceremony with Prince William because he is isolating at home

  • EXCLUSIVE: Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam tested positive for Covid last week
  • He missed his investiture at Windsor Castle with Prince William yesterday 
  • England’s former deputy chief medical officer is ‘almost completely recovered’
  • He earned a knighthood for steering the nation through the Covid pandemic with a dose of humour and his now infamous football analogies.

    But Sir Jonathan Van-Tam missed out on the chance to pick up his medal because he was infected with the virus, MailOnline can reveal.

    England’s ex-deputy chief medical officer had to pull out of his ceremony yesterday after testing positive ‘early last week’.

    JVT was due to meet Prince William at Windsor Castle for the investiture, along with Olympic cyclists Dame Laura and Sir Jason Kenny, who were able to attend the event to formally collect their honours. 

    The fully-vaccinated expert is isolating at home and has ‘almost completely recovered’, his employers at the University of Nottingham said.

    The university, where Sir Jonathan returned last month after stepping down from his public role in March, said he was ‘very disappointed’ to miss the occasion.

    Sir Jonathan also had to move a public lecture on leadership during the pandemic at the University of Bedfordshire this evening online because of the infection. 

    Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam missed his knighthood yesterday because he was infected with Covid, MailOnline can reveal

    Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam missed his knighthood yesterday because he was infected with Covid, MailOnline can reveal

    JVT was due to meet Prince William at Windsor Castle for the investiture, along with Olympic cyclists Laura and Jason Kenny (pictured), who were able to attend the event

    JVT was due to meet Prince William at Windsor Castle for the investiture, along with Olympic cyclists Laura and Jason Kenny (pictured), who were able to attend the event








    A University of Nottingham spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam was diagnosed with Covid-19 infection early last week. 

    ‘He is fully vaccinated, is continuing to work whilst isolating at home and is almost completely recovered.

    ‘He is very disappointed not to have attended his investiture yesterday as was planned, however it will be rescheduled and he is very much looking forward to receiving his Knighthood for services to public health.

    ‘This is a timely reminder that no matter how vigilant we remain, the risk of infection from Covid-19 remains present and can affect anyone. 

    ‘We should all continue to take reasonable steps to protect ourselves including getting fully vaccinated.’

    FROM VIETNAM TO LINCOLNSHIRE: VAN TAM’S FAMILY HISTORY

    Sir Jonathan Van-Tam has been a straight-talking voice of calm authority in the midst of uncertainty during the Covid pandemic.

    He was a regular and reassuring voice at the once-daily Downing Street briefings.

    But, where some of his colleagues prefer a slightly more dispassionate and clinical approach at the podium, the 57-year-old has endeared himself to the public by peppering his answers with references to his hobbies, his ethnicity and his family history.

    Jonathan Nguyen Van-Tam was given his middle name after his grandfather who served as the prime minister of Vietnam between 1952 and 1954.

    Nguyen Van-Tam was originally a school teacher born during the French colonial period in 1895

    He was picked by the French in the early 1940s to be  the Governor of Northern Vietnam before becoming Prime Minister.

    His son was General Nguyen Van Hinh — Professor Van-Tam’s uncle — the Chief of Staff of the Vietnamese National Army, the military force created by the French to fight for them against the Communist Revolution.

    Jonathan Van-Tam’s father Paul fled the war in the 1960s, eventually settling in Lincolnshire where the deputy chief medical officer was born.

    JVT attended Boston Grammar School in Boston, in the East Midlands county, where his father was a maths teacher. He graduated in medicine from the University of Nottingham in 1987.

    After five years of hospital-based clinical medicine, Van-Tam trained in public health and epidemiology and developed an interest in influenza and respiratory viruses.

    He became a Senior Lecturer at the University of Nottingham in 1997 before taking a number of high profile jobs as a medical director at British pharma giants.

    Van-Tam returned to the public sector in 2004 at the Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections, where he was Head of the Pandemic Influenza Office until October 2007.

    He has also chaired the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Expert Advisory Group on bird flu, and was a member of the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) during the 2009-10 pandemic.

    Since 2014 he has been Chair of the UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG).

    On 2 October 2017 he took up the role of Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England.

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    His public lecture scheduled at 5.30pm today was supposed to be a hybrid event, with attendees able to attend at the University of Bedfordshire’s Luton campus.

    But it will now be held entirely online, with those who had in-person tickets being sent links to watch remotely.

    He will ‘reflect on some of the some of the major decision-making and leadership challenges that have presented themselves to the Government’, the university said.

    Sir Jonathan, 57, announced his departure from public office in January this year during the height of the ‘partygate’ scandal that piled pressure on Boris Johnson.

    He resigned without a word of praise for the Prime Minister and just hours after the Tory leader apologised to the nation for boozing with 40 others in the garden of No 10. 

    Government sources insisted that his exit wasn’t related to ‘partygate’, claiming that his time was ‘up’ because he had been ‘on loan’ to Whitehall since 2017.

    Others saw the influenza expert’s departure as a sign that the worst of Covid was over.

    He returned to academic work at the University of Nottingham in May, taking up the position of pro-vice-chancellor for the faculty of medicine and health sciences. 

    Speaking ahead of the University of Bedfordshire event, when it was announced last week, Sir Jonathan said: ‘The public health and scientific challenges of the last 2.5 years have been unprecedented. 

    ‘I am glad there is now time to begin to reflect on our experiences and build for the future.’

    Professor Rebecca Bunting, vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, said: ‘We are delighted to welcome Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam MBE to the University for what is sure to be an unmissable and fascinating lecture. 

    ‘His role in the UK’s response to the pandemic has been nothing short of inspiring and we’re honoured to host him and his expertise on campus to share his knowledge.’

    A straight-talking voice of calm, JVT shot to fame in the early stages of the pandemic for his use of football-related metaphors to explain complex science.

    Trialled on his wife and three children before being presented to the public, he has variously conjured up images of rail travel, football and flying over the last two years.

    He has fronted many Downing Street press conferences, attracting a legion of fans who have bought T-shirts with his face and phrases emblazoned across the front.

    Sir Jonathan has also not been shy to call out advisers for appearing to break the rules.

    He made his feelings clear on Dominic Cummings’ infamous trip to Barnard Castle, declaring pointedly at a TV press conference: ‘The rules are clear and they have always been clear. In my opinion they are for the benefit of all and they apply to all’.  

    Sir Jonathan graduated in medicine from the University of Nottingham in 1987.

    After five years of hospital-based clinical medicine, he trained in public health and epidemiology developing an interest in influenza and respiratory viruses.

    He became a Senior Lecturer at Nottingham in 1997 before taking a number of high profile jobs as a medical director at British pharma giants.

    Sir Jonathan returned to the public sector in 2004 at the Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections, where he was Head of the Pandemic Influenza Office until October 2007.

    He has also chaired the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Expert Advisory Group on bird flu, and was a member of the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) during the 2009-10 pandemic.

    Since 2014 he has been Chair of the UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG).

    He took up the role of Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England on 2 October 2017.

    How JVT’s colourful analogies helped the public understand the pandemic and made him a household name 

    Defensive midfielders

    JVT, a fan of Boston United, likened the vaccination programme to defensive football players whose job it was to ‘watch everybody’s back’.

    At a Downing Street press conference he said: ‘A bit like a football game where the strikers who score the wonder goals are the ones who make the headlines, actually, the hard yards are done by the defenders and by the defensive midfielders tracking back, tracking back for 90 minutes of the whole game, watching everybody’s back.

    ‘This is what it’s going to be about now, tracking back and making sure that we finish the job properly in the phase one cohorts before we move on.’ 

    Grand National

    He compared the pandemic to the Aintree horse race when he warned Britain could not fall at the final fence. 

    ‘The vaccine effects are going to take three months until we see them properly, and until then no-one can relax,’ he told The Sun.

    ‘We are probably in the last few furlongs of this race – like in the Grand National. We just have a couple more fences, we have just got to stick with it.’

    Penalties

    Football is a common tool used by JVT to explain Britain’s progress through the coronavirus pandemic.

    He once described the development of the Pfizer vaccine to reaching the penalties at the end of the play-off final.

    ‘So this is like… getting to the end of the play-off final, it’s gone to penalties, the first player goes up and scores a goal.

    ‘You haven’t won the cup yet, but what it does is, it tells you that the goalkeeper can be beaten.’

    Landing a plane 

    The progress of the vaccine rollout has been compared to different forms of transport, including a plane coming in to land.

    JVT said: ‘Do I believe that we are now on the glide path to landing this plane? Yes I do.

    ‘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.’

    Crowded trains

    JVT said the pandemic was like waiting on a platform for a train, with the lights ‘a long way off’.

    He said: ‘This to me is like a train journey, it’s wet, it’s windy, it’s horrible.

    ‘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 the train was the vaccine, and he hoped when it was ready there would not be ‘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.’

    Red card

    JVT said Britons needed to avoid getting a ‘red card’ from the Omicron coronavirus variant by getting a booster jab.

    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.

    ‘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.’

    Yogurt

    When explaining the extreme temperature the coronavirus vaccine must be stored at, JVT said it was not like a yogurt.

    He added: ‘This is a complex product. It’s not a yoghurt that can be taken out of the fridge and put back in multiple times.’

    And other famous moments… 

    When he ripped off his shirt

    The professor proceeded to rip off his shirt and tie, disappearing into a cloud of smoke

    The professor proceeded to rip off his shirt and tie, disappearing into a cloud of smoke

    Professor Van-Tam was hosting the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures on BBC Four when he ripped off his shirt and tie, disappeared into a cloud of smoke – and reemerged in slightly less formal attire, wearing a more casual blue shirt underneath his jacket. 

    The stunt sparked a typical reaction on social media, with one account comparing JVT – as he’s widely become known – to Steve Coogan’s comedy cringe character, Alan Partridge.

    When he dealt calmly with an anti-vaxxer

    JVT stayed completely calm and responded politely to an anti-vaxxer who screamed abuse at him in Westminster last June.

    Geza Tarjanyi, 60, of Leyland, Lancashire, targeted the Deputy Chief Medical Officer as he walked into the Ministry of Defence building.

    He said: ‘Are you Van-Tam, aren’t ya? What was really in that needle that you put into Matt Hancock? Why are you continually lying to the British people? Why are you smiling? This country’s supposed to be in the worst pandemic of all time.’

    Professor Van-Tam politely replied: ‘It is.’ And when, following another torrent of abuse, the anti-vaxxer asked JVT if he was listening, the expert said: ‘What? I’m finding it difficult.’    

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