Chris whitty

Britain’s rivers are filthy

The name Chris Whitty will forever be associated in people’s minds with Covid-19. But in a recent cri de coeur he reminded us not only that he continues to exist following the end of his daily appearances on our TV screens, but that there are many other ways in which pathogens are out to get us. In a newspaper piece written with the chairs of Ofwat and the Environment Agency, the Chief Medical Officer raised the subject of Britain’s filthy rivers. While Britain’s environment has improved in many ways, with cleaner air, more trees and some species returning after centuries’ absence, our rivers have defied the trend, being more afflicted with sewage

Fact check: are Sadiq Khan’s vaccination claims right?

Sadiq Khan is always on the lookout for any way in to national debate, and this week he has been starting – quite rightly – to focus on the benefits of vaccination. But the key to doing this effectively is not to say stuff that’s not true. Here, he struggles. After the No. 10 press conference, he tweeted out one of Chris Whitty’s graphs claiming that ‘at all ages – the vast, vast majority of people hospitalised with Covid have not yet been vaccinated.’ But is this actually true? In a word: no. Vaccinations reduce your chances of hospitalisation by 88 per cent: they work. But the idea – popular on

Chris Whitty on the Omicron variant

This is an edited transcript of Professor Chris Whitty’s remarks at today’s Downing Street press conference The existing situation is almost entirely Delta.  In terms of numbers of cases, it is broadly flat. In younger children, there is quite significant transmission at this point in time, and rates are increasing in many parts of the country. At the other end of the spectrum, as a result of the booster programme almost certainly, rates are beginning to drift downwards in people over 60 and particularly people above 70. So we’re seeing an improvement in the group who are most vulnerable.  The numbers going to hospital are gradually decreasing. This is not a

Can Boris keep his roadmap on track?

Boris Johnson’s favourite phrase since he released his roadmap out of lockdown has been ‘cautious but irreversible’. These are the three words that supposedly describe the UK’s six-month timeline to freedom since it went into lockdown at the start of the year.  But the phrase was notably absent from tonight’s press conference. Instead, the Prime Minister warned that the rise of the Indian variant B1617.2 could pose a ‘serious disruption to our progress, and could make it more difficult to move to step 4 in June.’ The government’s worries, as Johnson laid out tonight, are what he described as ‘important unknowns’. The key question is to what extent the virus is more

Coming soon: No. 10’s vaccine home movie

‘Extraordinary. Unexpected. Fantastic’ is the tagline for the latest drama out of No. 10 Downing Street. Only this time the stars are not Carrie and the Vote Leave crew but Patrick Vallance, Chris Whitty, Kate Bingham, Jonathan Van-Tam and the other civil servants behind the UK’s vaccine programme. A brief 51 second clip was released this afternoon on the official Downing Street Twitter account and has already gone viral. Billed as ‘A Beacon of Hope: The UK Vaccine Story’, details of the homemade docu-drama have so far been scant.  The initial trailer features interviews with the protagonists interspersed with dramatic clips from throughout the pandemic and a suitably melodramatic score. Steerpike understands the idea

How worried should we be about a third wave?

At the beginning of the year, Boris Johnson and his advisers were at pains to tell us that by spring we would be in a vastly better situation with Covid. Well, spring is here, the number of new infections and deaths is falling by around 30 per cent week on week, deaths are back to where they were last October and new infections last September. The vaccine programme is running on time, and take-up has been high. Why, then, was the chief medical officer Chris Whitty so downbeat when he addressed the House of Commons science and technology committee this morning? He told MPs that he was expecting a further

Chris Whitty: tier three alone will not be enough

Chris Whitty made clear at tonight’s press conference with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor that he doesn’t think that the tier three restrictions are enough to get on top of the virus in the worst hit places. He was explicit that local councils will need to go even further in terms of closures in some places. Later in the press conference he said that the government ‘knew full lockdown works’ but it was also aware of the societal and economic harm it does, and the government rightly wants to keep schools open. Taken together, the answers strongly implied that Whitty thinks that in Covid hotspots everything apart from schools

What does the evidence say on re-opening schools?

It is still far from clear whether schools will succeed in re-opening next week, as government ministers, education authorities and unions battle it out over safety – or supposed safety – concerns. Now, as back in May, when the government first proposed re-opening schools, the unions have demanded evidence that it will be safe for children to return to the classroom. The difference now is that we do have real-world evidence on the spread of Covid-19 in schools. Public Health England (PHE) has analysed what happened when over a million children finally returned to school in June. In the subsequent weeks until the end of term, 70 children and 128

Why it’s vital that schools are fully open by September

Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, was explicit at Wednesday’s press conference about how concerned he was about a second Covid-19 spike in the winter months. This would coincide with the flu season, placing maximum pressure on the NHS. One consequence of this is that if something is not open by the beginning of October, it isn’t going to be open until the end of February next year. As one of those at the heart of coronavirus policy-making warns: ‘If Sage are this cautious going into summer, then they are not going to want to be playing fast and loose with the R number heading into winter.’ This shows why

Two gentlemen of corona: the scientists helping to fight Covid-19

We will have to get used to this. Every afternoon the prime minister strides into a butterscotch room in Downing Street and stands at a lectern between two drooping flags to give the latest dolorous news to an uncertain nation. How ironic that Boris, who instinctively loathes ‘doomsters and gloomsters’, is obliged to play the mortician’s bean–counter and recite the daily tallies of the infected and the dead. He’s flanked by the best brains in the land. On the right, Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s top scientific adviser. To the left, Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer. They wear the usual suit-and-tie uniform of reassuring officialdom. And both men

Boris Johnson is following science in his coronavirus response

Boris Johnson, according to a large Twitter mob this morning, is a reckless libertarian – ignoring the drastic but effective measures being taken against coronavirus in other countries – in the same spirit he once praised the mayor in Jaws who kept the beaches open in spite of swimmers being eaten. A large body of opinion appears to be on the side of Jeremy Hunt, who questioned the government’s strategy on Channel 4 news last night. But there is a fundamental problem with this narrative – and not just that many of the same people now praising Hunt were lambasting him several years ago as a charlatan, ignoring the advice