MPs hail Whitty and Vallance, the two gentlemen of corona

This time last year, Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty were completely unknown to almost everyone. Possibly even to some members of their own families. In their early outings at Downing Street press conferences, both the chief scientific adviser and the chief medical officer appeared somewhat hesitant when taking centre stage, only too happy to defer to the prime minister.

So much so that Boris Johnson ended up ignoring their advice, leading to a second and third lockdown.

John Crace

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They have been proved right and it is their version of the pandemic in which the public – and, as importantly, most sensible MPs – believe. So Greg Clark was both flustered and excited to have coronavirus royalty give evidence before the science and technology committee of which he is chair.

“Thank you both for coming,” he said, trying to channel his inner Oprah.

“Thank you for having us.”

“No, thank you.”

Clark kicked off by enquiring if the government’s roadmap out of lockdown was consistent with Sage advice. Vallance sighed. It was going to be a long morning. Sage’s job, he pointed out, was merely to establish the principles on which the decisions should be taken.

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It was the government’s job to decide on the actual measures themselves. But yes, broadly speaking the government had bothered to take them seriously this time round.

Labour’s Graham Stringer thought he had detected a flaw in their thinking. Was “data not dates” just an empty slogan?

Vallance sighed again. Er, no. The dates were merely the minimum period required in which to assess the full impact of the previous easing of restrictions. The first reliable moment to make sure the virus was under as much control as had been hoped.

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So data not dates was just an empty slogan, Stringer muttered under his breath, rather missing the point. As did Clark, who wanted to know why, if the data was better than expected, we couldn’t unlock down quicker.

Now it was Whitty’s turn to spell out the realities of the situation. The faster we went, the more variables were added to the equation. And we would still need five-week gaps to measure the impact of the changes anyway. Besides which, it was easy to forget just how quickly the situation could get out of control.

In 2005, when Ronaldo was playing for Manchester United, his father died from alcohol-related kidney problems; in 2007, his mother struggled with breast cancer. The former was especially hard for Ronaldo since he and his dad had been close.

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The young athlete had often pushed for his father to enter rehab and address his drinking. His father, however, never accepted the offer.

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By the time he was 10 years old, Ronaldo was already recognized as a phenomenon — a kid who ate, slept and drank soccer. “All he wanted to do as a boy was play football,” his godfather, Fernao Sousa, recalled for British reporters, adding, “He loved the game so much he’d miss meals or escape out of his bedroom window with a ball when he was supposed to be doing his homework.”