A man who filmed himself berating England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty has been condemned by MPs who sought to defend the senior government adviser.
Prof Whitty, who has served as the face of the medical community throughout the Covid-19 pandemic in the government’s daily press briefings, could be seen in the video walking along Westminster’s Strutton Ground food market.
The person filming him, a young man with a London accent, could be heard telling Prof Whitty he was a “liar”, adding “You’re lying about the Covid-19 cases man. C’mon man, stop lying to the TV man”.
The footage, which appeared to be filmed while the epidemiologist waited in the queue at a food stall, was later uploaded to social media site Tik Tok.
Alongside his work communicating the impact of covid to the country and advising the government during the pandemic, Prof Whitty has also spent time on Covid wards - treating patients at the London hospital where he practices medicine on Christmas Day.
Health secretary Matt Hancock branded the heckler “pathetic” as he defended the senior government adviser.
“I think the individual concerned is pathetic, I think it is ridiculous what he is doing,” Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast on Wednesday. “Chris Whitty is one of our greatest living scientists and his advice to the government all the way through this … has been incredibly smart and thoughtful.
The minister added: “The idea that someone would do something as silly as that is ridiculous. Chris Whitty is a scientist of great repute and, frankly, he should be respected by everybody.”
And prime minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “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.
“It is clearly unacceptable that somebody who has done so much is being subject to this sort of behaviour.”
Matt Vickers, Tory MP for Stockton South, suggested the heckler volunteer on a Covid ward to see the realities facing the nation’s hospitals. He wrote on Twitter: “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.”
Mr Vickers added: “Perhaps the young man should be made to volunteer on a Covid ward. Perhaps then he will feel a pinch of shame and embarrassment for his dangerous conspiracies and yobbish behaviour.”
The incident comes amid anti-authority sentiment from individuals opposed to a range of measures designed to stem the spread of the virus, including lockdown measures and vaccines, as well as continued conspiracy theories and denials of the virus’ existence.
Last month footage emerged of an exchange between a medical professional and a member of the public who was appealing for a Covid patient to be released from hospital on the grounds the virus was a hoax.
At the time Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, the president of the Doctors Association UK said “Staff are exhausted and are running on fumes. They should not be having to deal with abuse and even death threats on social media.
“Nor should they be worried about turning up for their shift due to crowds of people chanting ‘Covid is a hoax’ outside hospitals full of patients who are sick and dying. This is decimating morale, but worse still, could be obstructing patient care.”
This article was amended on February 3, 2021, to remove a reference to a 'south London accent'.
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