Watch: Chris Whitty harassed and called ‘liar’ in the street
Professor Chris Whitty has played down the moment he was verbally abused by a young man in the street and said he’s sure the young lad will grow up to “become a model citizen - like Captain Tom”.
Speaking at the daily COVID press conference on Wednesday evening, Prof Whitty was asked about the moment the man accosted England’s chief medical officer in the street and accused him of “lying” about COVID-19.
The TikTok video, widely shared on social media on Tuesday, shows England’s chief medical officer walking on Westminster's Strutton Ground market before stopping and putting on a face mask while waiting to order lunch.
As he stands on the street, a TikTok user films Prof Whitty and repeatedly calls him a “liar” while the professor remains silent.
At one point, the person filming the video tells Prof Whitty that is "lying about the COVID-19 cases” and tells him to “stop lying to the TV, man”.
Prof Whitty said: “The odd young lad showing off occasionally happens. I didn’t think anything of it, frankly, and I was very surprised it was picked up by the media at all.
“I’m sure he’ll become a model citizen in due course and more like Captain Tom - who is the kind of person who much more exemplifies the spirit of the UK.”
Earlier, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman had condemned the man’s actions. “Chris Whitty is an outstanding public servant who has worked incredibly hard and tirelessly to help steer us through what has been a very, very challenging time over the past year.
“And it is clearly unacceptable that somebody who has done so much is being subject to this sort of behaviour.”
Tory MP Matt Vickers had condemned the actions of the person filming the video and urged Twitter followers to share the clip.
He tweeted: “This is appalling, I really can't believe this footage.
“Chris Whitty is doing all he can to help guide us through this crisis and should never be subjected to this abuse.”
The individual was branded “pathetic” by health secretary Matt Hancock. He said: “It is ridiculous what he is doing. Chris Whitty is one of our greatest living scientists and his advice to the Government all the way through this, and his advice to all of us in the population, has been incredibly smart and thoughtful, and he is a great asset to this nation.
“The idea that someone would do something as silly as that is ridiculous.”
He added: “Chris Whitty is a scientist of great repute and, frankly, he should be respected by everybody.”
Prof Whitty has become a prominent figure in the coronavirus pandemic, regularly fronting press conferences with the prime minister to give updates and advice.
As the vaccination programme continues in the UK, Prof Whitty has warned that any restrictions that may be lifted may have to be reintroduced in the winter.
He said: “We might have to bring in a few in the next winter for example, that’s possible, because winter will benefit the virus.”
Figures released on Wednesday showed a further 1,322 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19, bringing the UK total to 109,335.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 126,000 deaths involving COVID-19 in the UK.
The Government also said that, as of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 19,202 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 3,871,825.
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