Jonathan Van-Tam's most memorable COVID analogies as he steps down

·4 min read
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.
Professor Sir Jonathan Van Tam is leaving his postition as deputy chief medical officer for England. (PA)

England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam is to leave his role at the end of March

Van-Tam has been a regular fixture of life in England for almost two years, becoming one of the defining voices handling the pandemic as he fronted Downing Street conferences. 

While many struggled to keep up with what was happening, Van-Tam could be relied on to offer a range of analogies to put the pandemic into simpler terms - often using his own passion for football to bring everything into context. 

He has previously said: "I love metaphors. I think they bring complex stories to life for people. It's great."

Yahoo News UK looks at some of his finest moments over the course of the pandemic.

"The train has now slowed down"

Van-Tam used the analogy of waiting for a train to describe the process of a vaccine getting developed and rolled out to the public. 

When the Pfizer/BioNTech was authorised – paving the way for a mass roll-out – he said it was like a train stopping for people to get on board.

He said on 3 December 2020: "The train has now slowed down safely. It has now stopped in the station. And the doors have opened - that was the authorisation by the MHRA.

"What we need now is for people to get on that train and travel safely to their destinations."

Landing a plane

Van-Tam also compared the progress of a vaccine to a plane coming into land.

He told a press conference: “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.”

Read more: Jonathan Van-Tam blows final whistle on time as England's deputy chief medical officer

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 July 19, 2021.
Deputy chief medical officer for England Professor Jonathan Van Tam, during a media briefing in Downing Street. (PA)

'It's not a yoghurt'

As the country began to understand the complex requirements around how a vaccine could be rolled out to the country as quickly as possibly, Van-Tam was on hand to highlight the precarious nature of storing them.

The Pfizer vaccine needed to be kept at around -70C before being used, leading Van-Tam comparing it to a yoghurt.

"This is a complex product," he said in December 2020. "It's not a yoghurt that can be taken out of the fridge and put back in multiple times."

Gone to penalties

It quickly became obvious Van-Tam was a fan of the football analogy. During a discussion about how the Pfizer vaccine would affect transmission of the virus, he compared it to a penalty shootout. 

“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," he explained last November.

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

Comparing the pandemic to the Grand National

Football wasn't the only trick up his sleeve when it came to discussing the pandemic, opting to compare to the Grand National, warning England shouldn't fall at the final hurdle.

He told The Sun in January this. year: “The vaccine effects are going to take three months until we see them properly, and until then no one can relax.

“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.”

'See if we can get another goal'

In a football commentary-style remark about the pandemic, Van-Tam said in December 2020 it was clear that in the first half the away team “gave us an absolute battering”, but that an equalising goal was clinched in the 70th minute.

“OK, we’ve got to hold our nerve now, see if we can get another goal and nick it.

“But the key thing is not to lose it, not to throw it away at this point because we’ve got a point on the board, and we’ve got the draw,” the Boston United season ticket holder said.

Mum's the word

Discussing fears about the safety of the new vaccine, Van-Tam reassured people in November 2020 prior to the rollout that he was so confident in it that he was urging his mum to get in line for a jab.

"I genuinely have said to my 78-year-old mum, who's probably listening now - 'Mum, you must have this vaccine, or any of the vaccines that the MHRA [the UK's medicines regulator] approves as soon as they are available. This is really important, because you are so at risk'," he said.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting