A group of “idiots” filmed apparently grabbing and harassing UK Government Covid adviser Chris Whitty has been condemned by the Prime Minister and senior figures across politics including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
England’s chief medical officer was seen to be accosted by men in St James’s Park, London.
They are heard shouting and yelling “oi, oi” while pulling at his suit and following him.
They are also heard to ask “one photo, mate” as the uncomfortable scientist tries to walk away.
Professor Whitty has been a central figure in the pandemic and regularly updates the UK on progress tackling the spread of coronavirus.
Footage has emerged of Professor Chris Whitty being manhandled by two men in the street.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) June 29, 2021
The First Minister was clear in her response during a Covid briefing in Edinburgh, which she fronted with Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith.
“I can’t find the words strong enough to deplore and condemn what I saw in a video last night with the way in which Chris Whitty was being abused, actually manhandled, by people out in public,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“For anybody to face that is appalling. I don’t work with Chris Whitty on a day-to-day basis directly, although obviously I’ve had interactions with him over the course of the pandemic, but I do work with Gregor on a day-to-day basis very closely. I know how hard our clinical advisers are working right now in the interests of getting the whole country through this and they deserve our gratitude and support, not abuse from a mindless minority.
“So I’ll just send Chris my good wishes today and encourage him to keep doing the fantastic job that he’s been doing.”
‘Professional and personal respect’
Dr Smith spoke to his cross-border colleague before the briefing.
He said: “Chris is a person that I have got a huge amount of professional and personal respect for, both in the way that he has conducted himself generally over the course of the pandemic but just in the qualities that he brings from a professional perspective as well.
“I was in contact with him earlier today. We spoke about what happened. He knows that he’s got my support. Unfortunately these things have happened from time to time over the course of this pandemic when various professional advisers how found themselves on the receiving end of some sort of abuse. I think it’s appalling what happened to Chris and as a society we should condemn it.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded earlier on social media.
He said: “I’m shocked at seeing the despicable harassment of Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.
“I condemn the behaviour of these thugs. Our hard-working public servants should not have to face this kind of intimidation on our streets and we will not tolerate it.”
I’m shocked at seeing the despicable harassment of Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.
I condemn the behaviour of these thugs. Our hard-working public servants should not have to face this kind of intimidation on our streets and we will not tolerate it.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) June 29, 2021
It follows wider concern about the safety of senior public figures including at protests where anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination demonstrators have gathered in large numbers.
Politicians across parties responded with horror, including SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford.
“It really is reprehensible what has happened,” he said.
“This kind of thuggery is not acceptable. People have to be held to account.”
North-east Tory MP Andrew Bowie told them: “Get a grip. Idiots”.
The video of Chris Whitty being accosted by two thugs is appalling. You may be frustrated by restrictions, you may disagree, but he advises. Politicians decide. And all he has done this past year is his job. Advising the govt so we can keep people alive. Get a grip. Idiots.
— Andrew Bowie MP (@AndrewBowie_MP) June 29, 2021
Mr Bowie added: “The video of Chris Whitty being accosted by two thugs is appalling. You may be frustrated by restrictions, you may disagree, but he advises. Politicians decide.
“And all he has done this past year is his job. Advising the government so we can keep people alive.”
The Metropolitan Police earlier said it is investigating after the video was shared online.