LONDON – England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam, one of the scientists who led the U.K.’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, will leave his role in March, the government said Thursday.
Van-Tam became a household name for his frequent appearances at the government’s televised COVID-19 news briefings, and is known for his no-nonsense style and engaging analogies that helped explain the coronavirus to the public.
He gained popularity with his soccer analogies — he warned for example that the “final whistle hasn’t blown” for the pandemic in November. Earlier, he compared positive vaccine trials to scoring in a penalty shoot-out, and said the results showed that “the goalkeeper can be beaten.”
He has been on secondment to the Health Department from the University of Nottingham since 2017, and from the end of March he will return to the institution to take up a new role as pro-vice chancellor for its faculty of medicine and health sciences.
In a statement, Van-Tam — affectionately known as JVT — said his time as the country’s deputy medical chief has been “the most challenging” of his career, but added it was the “greatest privilege” to serve the country.
“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,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked Van-Tam for his “extraordinary contribution to our country and his invaluable advice throughout the pandemic.”
Van-Tam, along with England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty, were both knighted in December for their services.