A Tory MP has deleted a tweet in which she said the UK was not a “public health socialist state” after England’s chief medical officer urged the public to be selective their social interactions ahead of Christmas.
Joy Morrissey, MP for Beaconsfield, posted on Twitter after Professor Chris Whitty urged the public to consider which social contacts were important to them, in a bid to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
The now-deleted post said: “Perhaps the unelected covid public health spokesperson should defer to what our ELECTED Members of Parliament and the Prime Minister have decided.
“I know it’s difficult to remember but that’s how democracy works. This is not a public health socialist state.”
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting called her comments “outrageous”.
He tweeted: “It is outrageous to see a Government PPS (parliamentary private secretary) attacking the Chief Medical Officer in this way. She should apologise and withdraw this immediately. Chris Whitty has never disputed where policy is made – he makes this point repeatedly.”
Former cabinet minister Julian Smith tweeted: “Personal attacks by any politician on members of @UKCivilService are completely unacceptable.
“@UKCivilService supports the government, works flat out & needs to be encouraged & defended in its role of offering impartial and confident advice.”
In a press briefing on Wednesday, Prof Whitty said it was sensible to prioritise the social interactions that matter, especially in the run-up to Christmas.
He said: “I think that what most people are doing, and I would think this seems very sensible, is prioritising the social interactions that really matter to them and, to protect those ones, de-prioritising ones that matter much less to them.
“I think that’s going to become increasingly important as we, for example, go into the Christmas period.”
He said he would “strongly encourage” Britons to take tests before visiting vulnerable people and to meet in areas with good ventilation or outdoors if possible.
He added that people “don’t need a medical degree to realise that is a sensible thing to do with an incredibly infectious virus”.
Boris Johnson told the public to think hard about their plans, but did not go as far as to suggest some gatherings should be cancelled.
But on Thursday, health minister Gillian Keegan said the Prime Minister and Prof Whitty were “both basically saying the same thing”.
She told Times Radio: “What they were saying was prioritise, because obviously the more contacts you have, the more chance you have of testing positive, and that would mean that you’d be isolated on Christmas Day.
“Obviously if you want to have a family Christmas, then be cautious, otherwise you could end up testing positive and having to isolate over Christmas. That’s the message.
“Everybody must prioritise, you know – if you’re going to have a family Christmas with your relatives and, you know, you’ve got some maybe elderly relatives, then of course people aren’t going to be going out to nightclubs in the run-up to that event, because the chance of success in testing positive after that is probably much higher.
“So people are being cautious anyway, people will make their own choices. But, you know, it’s not for the Government to say, for every single situation, you must use your judgment as well and take a test beforehand.”