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Jonathan Van-Tam adds Grand National to his pandemic metaphors

By PA News

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Professor Jonathan Van-Tam has said Britain is in a Grand National-style race to beat coronavirus, in his latest metaphor on the pandemic.

The deputy chief medical officer, referred to as JVT, has become renowned for his use of analogies to help explain aspects of the virus as the nation battles against it.

In his latest metaphor, Prof Van-Tam compared the pandemic to the famous horse race held annually at Aintree in Liverpool, warning the country must not fall at the final fence.

Speaking to The Sun, he said: “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.”

Speaking in the past about his analogies, Prof Van-Tam told BBC Breakfast: “I love metaphors. I think they bring complex stories to life for people. It’s great.”

Here are some of the medical chief’s other analogies:

– Penalties

Prof Van-Tam spoke about football penalty shootouts as he discussed vaccine breakthroughs.

Deputy chief medical officer for England Jonathan Van-Tam (John Sibley/PA)
Deputy chief medical officer for England Jonathan Van-Tam (John Sibley/PA)

He was discussing how the Pfizer vaccine would affect transmission of the virus.

“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.

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

– Holding on for the win

In a football commentary-style remark about the pandemic, Prof Van-Tam said 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.

– Landing a plane

Do I believe that we are now on the glide path to landing this plane? Yes I do

Prof Van-Tam has also compared the progress on a vaccine to a plane coming into land.

He told a press briefing: “Do I believe that we are now on the glide path to landing this plane? Yes I do.”

Prof Van-Tam 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.”

– Waiting on a railway platform

Prof Van-Tam said the pandemic is similar to waiting to board a crowded train.

“This to me is like a train journey, it’s wet, it’s windy, it’s horrible.

“And two miles down the tracks, two lights appear and it’s the train and it’s a long way off and we’re at that point at the moment.

“That’s the efficacy result.

“Then we hope the train slows down safely to get into the station, that’s the safety data, and then the train stops.

“And at that point, the doors don’t open, the guard has to make sure it’s safe to open the doors. That’s the MHRA, that’s the regulator,” he said.

Prof Van-Tam added: “And when the doors open, I hope there’s not an unholy scramble for the seats.

“The JCVI has very clearly said which people need the seats most and they are the ones who should get on the train first.”

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