New Year Honours: Medical chiefs battling Covid crisis Professor Chris Whitty and Jonathan Van-Tam recognised

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Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty (PA Wire)
Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty (PA Wire)

The medical chiefs leading the UK’s battle against coronavirus have been recognised in the New Year Honours list while the Queen has knighted former prime minister Tony Blair.

England’s chief medical officer (CMO), Professor Chris Whitty, deputy CMO, Jonathan Van-Tam, and Wales’ and Scotland’s CMOs, Frank Atherton and Dr Gregor Smith, have been given knighthoods.

The longest-serving Labour PM said it was an “immense honour” to have been made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry, to which appointments are in the Queen’s gift without advice from the Government.

There are also damehoods for UK Health Security Agency chief, Dr Jenny Harries, and Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), after a year in which the threat of new variants arose and more than 130 million vaccinations were administered.

The Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, who was originally knighted in the 2019 New Year Honours list, is elevated to a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.

The Cabinet Office said nearly one in five (19%) of the honours are for Covid-related service.

Former prime minister Tony Blair has been knighted in the New Year Honours List (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)
Former prime minister Tony Blair has been knighted in the New Year Honours List (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

Scientists have played a central role in keeping the public informed during briefings throughout the year in response to Covid-19 and are being recognised for services to public health and science.

Sir Patrick said: “I am really pleased to see so many outstanding scientists and engineers recognised in this year’s honours, including those that have been working tirelessly as part of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

And the MHRA chief, Dame June, said: “I am enormously honoured by this recognition of the substantial contribution which the MHRA has made to the nation’s response to Covid-19 over the last two years.

“This is thanks to the dedication and commitment of all our talented staff, who work so tirelessly to make sure vaccines, therapeutics and medical devices are safe and effective for people across the UK.”

In a separate announcement, Buckingham Palace said Labour peer Baroness Amos has become the first black person to be appointed to the Order of the Garter, while the Duchess of Cornwall is also appointed to join other senior royals.

A Buckingham Palace statement said: “Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to appoint Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, GCVO, to be a Royal Lady of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.

“In addition, The Queen has been graciously pleased to appoint The Right Honourable Valerie Ann, Baroness Amos CH to be a Lady Companion and The Right Honourable Anthony Charles Lynton Blair to be a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.”

The newly-styled Sir Tony said he was “deeply grateful” to the Queen and added: “It was a great privilege to serve as prime minister and I would like to thank all those who served alongside me, in politics, public service and all parts of our society, for their dedication and commitment to our country.”

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