One of the Prime Minister’s closest advisors during the pandemic will step down from his role. Prof Van-Tam will continue to advise the Government until the end of March. He has been on a “repeatedly-extended secondment” from the University of Nottingham since 2017 and reportedly told senior health officials yesterday that his loan was up.
The decision is understood to not directly be related to Mr Johnson’s current Partygate scandal or his policies, but the announcement comes as the head of Government faces a wave of criticm and demands to resign.
In a statement, he said: “My time as DCMO has been the most challenging of my professional career, especially the COVID response.
“We all wish COVID had never happened. Notwithstanding, it has been the greatest privilege of my professional career to have served the people of the UK during this time.
“I want to pay tribute to Professor Chris Whitty, the CMO team, my fellow scientists, public health professionals and clinicians whose support, wisdom and energy has been inspiring.
“There are countless numbers who work behind the scenes – all of whom have an unrelenting commitment to help and support the British public. It has been an honour to work with them all.”
Reacting to the news, Health Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: “It has been an honour to work with JVT and I am hugely grateful for his advice & the vital role he has played in our vaccination programme.
“I wish him all the best for the future at the University of Nottingham.”
Prof Van-Tam had become one of England’s most trusted and liked medics for his briefings during the pandemic, where he often used football analogies to give a light-hearted spin to disaster.
He was given a knighthood by the Queen earlier this month.
At the time Prof Van-Tam said he was “deeply humbled” by his honour, adding that serving the UK public during the health crisis had been “the greatest privilege of my professional career”.
He praised the “commitment, advice and wisdom” of colleagues and thanked his family for their support.
His decision comes after more than 100,000 NHS workers called for Mr Johnson to resign over his “disastrous” handling of the pandemic.
Unite’s national health committee says the Prime Minister’s reported breaking of his own rules has meant that his position in office is now “untenable”.
The union also claim that Mr Johnson is responsible for Britain’s record of the highest death toll in Europe, with more than 175,000 deaths from COVID-19.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “Health workers have toiled long and sacrificed much during the last two years of the pandemic. They have taken huge personal risks caring for the public and day-after-day observed all the standing rules on Covid.
“The Prime Minister has set these rules and yet he has flagrantly broken them. His position in office is now untenable.”
This is a breaking story. More to follow.