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During the pandemic, a small army of unprepossessing doctors have become media stars, responsible for communicating the scale and importance of the crisis, and getting the public to respond in a way that limits the spread of the virus. One of the most recognizable faces in Europe is Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, who has fronted much of the UK government’s coronavirus response.
Whitty took over the role of chief medical officer for England, from Sally Davies, a highly polished media performer and public-health activist. Until COVID hit, Whitty has been less interventionist than his predecessor, but quickly became not just the public face of the UK’s response to the pandemic but one of its shepherds, sitting on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, which advises the government on actions to take to mitigate COVID's spread.
To do that, he’s had to navigate the complicated world of politics while keeping health as his lodestar. The BBC has called him “the official who will probably have the greatest impact on our everyday lives of any individual policymaker in modern times.” His most recent public message was that the UK was near the limits of easing lockdown, transforming 67 million lives forever.