England’s former Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Jonathan Van Tam, has visited the University of Plymouth to deliver a lecture in which he warned we must remain alert to the threat of COVID-19 and any future pandemics.
JVT – as he became widely known to the public thanks to his regular appearances in COVID-19 briefings broadcast from Downing Street – was invited by the
Peninsula Medical School in collaboration with the Plymouth Medical Society.
He spoke to staff, students, society members and NHS partners about the clinical context for COVID-19. He gave an overview of the national preparedness that existed at the start of the pandemic, described the science of decision making, and revisited the different events that meant peaks of infection became a real and present danger on different occasions – stimulating numerous lockdowns.
In Science & Leadership during the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic, he also outlined the importance of vaccine delivery and gave a very honest account about how scientific experts supported the Government in a time of real need.
And another message was clear; the country may not have navigated through the last three years without the immunity provided by the suite of vaccines, and we must avoid becoming complacent about Covid.
Many frontline health workers are still tackling the disease on a daily basis, and it is still impacting people’s lives, Professor Van Tam told his audience.
In addition, he warned there is a very real possibility of a new Covid strain and the likelihood of a new pandemic – Disease X – is always on the horizon.
But, concluding on a positive note, the professor said the last three years has shown that with the right leadership, a community of scientific experts, and the efforts of heroic frontline workers, we can tackle deadly diseases.
“The arrival of COVID-19 also kickstarted an international effort with one ambitious goal; to unite to find the answers and solutions that would allow us to successfully navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Three years on, and with an opportunity to look back, it is fair to say that the pandemic has left an indelible mark.
“For most people who work, teach and undertake research in the healthcare sector, that potent mixture of fear of the unknown intertwined with the determination to save lives, is seared in our memories even as we adjust to the ‘new normal’ of living with COVID-19. During the pandemic, Professor Sir Jonathan Van Tam personified the concept of a public servant, and we were lucky we were to have had the right person, in the right place, at the right time. We owe him our gratitude and sincere thanks.”