Jonathan Van Tam went out for a curry after Boris Johnson told Londoners to avoid restaurants


Jonathan Van Tam went out for a curry on the same day Boris Johnson told Londoners to avoid restaurants due to the Covid risk in March.

The deputy chief medical officer for England spent £21.77 of taxpayer’s money on his meal at Pakhtoon Restaurant in London on March 16. 

Just hours earlier, Boris Johnson urged all people in the UK to avoid unnecessary contact to stop the rapid spread of coronavirus from overwhelming the NHS.

He noted higher figures in the capital and warned Londoners to avoid restaurants – with pubs, clubs and theatres also off limits.

Receipts exclusively obtained by MailOnline revealed that after the PM’s address was over, Professor Van Tam ordered a diet coke, tarka dal, basmati rice and lamb seekh kebab from Pakhtoon Restaurant in London’s West End.  

He spent a total of £21.77 – including a £2.42 service charge – on the solo meal out, which lasted until just before 10pm.

Jonathan Van Tam (pictured in front of a podium with the Government’s stay home, protect the NHS, save lives slogan in May) went out for a curry the same day Boris Johnson told Londoners to avoid restaurants due to the Covid risk in March

The deputy chief medical officer for England spent £21.77 on a meal at Pakhtoon Restaurant (his receipt, pictured) in London in the evening of March 16

The deputy chief medical officer for England spent £21.77 on a meal at Pakhtoon Restaurant (his receipt, pictured) in London in the evening of March 16

He then claimed the money back on expenses. 

The country’s nation-wide lockdown did not officially begin until March 23, when Britons were ordered to stay at home and non-essential retail was shut. 

This means that Professor Van Tam only went against Government advice and did not break the rules.

Professor Van Tam – dubbed JVT – received cult status throughout his appearances flanking ministers at Downing Street press briefings.  

He won several accolades for his forthright and colourful communications style and accumulated a hoard of loyal fans who fawn over his use of elaborate extended metaphors.

In May, he appealed for Britons not to ‘tear the pants out of’ a more-relaxed lockdown and urged them to be sensible to avoid a spike in infections. 

He also likened the Covid vaccine to a train stopping all over the country and urging people to ‘get on’.

When explaining the logistical difficulties of storing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, he said it is ‘not a yoghurt that can be taken out of the fridge and put back multiple times’.

Just hours earlier, Boris Johnson  urged all people in the UK to avoid contact if not absolutely necessary - with pubs, clubs and non-essential travel off limits - in a press briefing (the March 16 briefing pictured)

Just hours earlier, Boris Johnson  urged all people in the UK to avoid contact if not absolutely necessary – with pubs, clubs and non-essential travel off limits – in a press briefing (the March 16 briefing pictured)

Number 10’s ‘favourite’ health chief: Who is Jonathan Van Tam?

Professor Van Tam – dubbed JVT – received cult status throughout his appearances flanking ministers at Downing Street press briefings. 

He took on the role of deputy chief medical officer for England in 2017 and leads on health protection. 

He won several accolades for his forthright and colourful communications style and has accumulated a hoard of loyal fans who fawn over his use of elaborate extended metaphors. 

These included likening the production of the Covid vaccine to a train.

When the Pfizer vaccine was approved, he triumphantly announced: ‘The train has now slowed down safely, it is at the station.’

He steamed ahead with the drawn-out analogy, announcing that the train would be stopping all over the country and urging people to ‘get on’.

He said there would be ‘several more trains’ coming down the tracks – believed to be a coded signal that not everyone would receive a jab in the first phase of the rollout.

When explaining the logistical difficulties of storing the Pfizer vaccine, he used a bizarre yoghurt pot analogy.

‘It is not a yoghurt that can be taken out of the fridge and put back multiple times,’ he said, before later trending on Twitter.

 Prof Van Tam – whose mother called him ‘Johnny’ – has previously appealed for Britons not to ‘tear the pants out of’ a looser lockdown, and likened the cutting-edge scientific quest for treatments to a football penalty shoot out.

Downing Street has increasingly come to rely on the expert to get its message across, even though he can cause a stir.

Last month he contradicted the PM by suggesting that the country might never completely return to ‘normal’ after the pandemic.

Referring to the exchange with the premier, Prof Van Tam said: ‘In actual fact I think Boris got it right and I don’t think I explained myself properly.’

Downing Street has increasingly come to rely on the expert – who took on the role in 2017 and leads on health protection – to get its message across, even though he can cause a stir. 

In December, he contradicted the PM by suggesting that the country might never completely return to ‘normal’ after the pandemic.  

Another invoice shows Professor Van Tam spent two nights at a hotel in London from March 16 to March 18, costing the taxpayer £190.50.

According to the Department Of Health’s senior officials’ expenses list, the hotel stay was ‘due to incident response’.

On March 17, he spent £32.20 on a taxi in London for a briefing of the Rapid Research Panel.

The receipts – obtained exclusively via an FOI request – also show Professor Van Tam visited Pakhtoon Restaurant on February 3, when Covid cases were still mostly confined to China.

It appears he dined with someone else on this occasion, and had the exact same dishes as on March 16.

In his March 16 address to the nation, Mr Johnson spoke to people living in London, where cases were then-highest.

He said: ‘To relieve the pressure on the London health system and to slow the spread in London, it’s important that Londoners now pay special attention to what we are saying about avoiding non-essential contact, and to take particularly seriously the advice about working from home, and avoiding confined spaces such as pubs and restaurants.’

Addressing the whole country, the PM said: ‘Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel.

‘We need people to start working from home where they possibly can. And you should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues.’

A Health Department spokesperson said: ‘Having worked from 7am that morning, Professor Van Tam ate a meal alone before continuing to work on the pandemic response.

‘Professor Van Tam does not live in London and is therefore required to stay overnight on occasion when working very long hours or when handling particularly sensitive topics.’

Several key figures in the country’s pandemic response have been caught breaking the rules.

Mr Johnson’s former-chief aide Dominic Cummings sparked fury when he drove his family from London to visit his parents in County Durham in late May while he was sick with Covid-19. 

The scandal also included Mr Cummings driving 30 miles to the popular tourist spot Barnard Castle while in the north east to test his eye sight, risking passing the infection to others.

Receipts exclusively obtained by MailOnline, revealed that Professor Van Tam ordered a diet coke, tarka dal, basmati rice and lamb seekh kebab from Pakhtoon Restaurant (pictured) in London's West End

Receipts exclusively obtained by MailOnline, revealed that Professor Van Tam ordered a diet coke, tarka dal, basmati rice and lamb seekh kebab from Pakhtoon Restaurant (pictured) in London’s West End

What did Jonathan Van Tam eat in a restaurant on March 16?

Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam dined alone in Pakhtoon Restaurant in London on March 16.

Receipts exclusively obtained by MailOnline reveal that he ordered: 

  • A diet coke
  • Tarka dal
  • Basmati rice 
  • Lamb seekh kebab

And SAGE scientist Professor Neil Ferguson was accused of catastrophically ‘undermining’ the government’s position by having secret trysts with his married lover. 

The professor – dubbed nicknamed ‘Professor Lockdown’ because he convinced Boris Johnson to order millions to stay at home – asked his mistress Antonia Staats to travel across London to his home at least twice in March and April.

Professor Neil Ferguson quit his Government role on the influential SAGE committee after the news broke.

Professor Van Tam has won countless accolades for his colourful and frank communication with the public. 

When the Pfizer vaccine was approved, he triumphantly announced: ‘The train has now slowed down safely, it is at the station.’

He steamed ahead with the drawn-out analogy, announcing that the train would be stopping all over the country and urging people to ‘get on’. 

In his March 16 address to the nation (pictured), Mr Johnson spoke to London, where cases were then-highest

In his March 16 address to the nation (pictured), Mr Johnson spoke to London, where cases were then-highest 

What was the Government’s Covid guidance on March 16? 

  • All Britons should avoid contact if not absolutely necessary – with pubs, clubs and non-essential travel off limits
  • Non-essential travel is off limits 
  • Londoners should avoid restaurants 
  • No official shut-down order or curfew for bars and restaurants,  instead Mr Johnson said he would rely on businesses and Britons to follow guidance
  • Schools can remain open 

He said there would be ‘several more trains’ coming down the tracks – believed to be a coded signal that not everyone would receive a jab in the first phase of the rollout.

When explaining the logistical difficulties of storing the Pfizer vaccine, he used a bizarre yoghurt pot analogy.

‘It is not a yoghurt that can be taken out of the fridge and put back multiple times,’ he said, before later trending on Twitter.

And last month he cemented his cult status by insisting that Father Christmas will be given the coronavirus jab first.

Professor Van Tam was asked by a mother during a BBC phone-in in December whether she could reassure her children that Father Christmas had been vaccinated.

‘Oh, absolutely. The JCVI made a very special case for Father Christmas and he is going to be absolutely at the top of our list,’ Proffesor Van Tam said solemnly.

And discussing his communications style, he said: ‘I love metaphors. I think they bring complex stories to life for people. It’s great.’

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