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Chris Whitty could get police protection after Boris Johnson led condemnation of the "despicable harassment" of the Chief Medical Officer.

The Prime Minister said he would "not tolerate" the "intimidation" of public officials in the streets after a clip of the medic being grabbed in St James' Park, London, emerged online.

The Metropolitan Police said officers spoke to all those involved at the time and "the circumstances continue to be investigated."

Mr Johnson tweeted: "I'm shocked at seeing the despicable harassment of Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.

"I condemn the behaviour of these thugs. Our hard-working public servants should not have to face this kind of intimidation on our streets and we will not tolerate it."

As calls mounted for him to be given police protection, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "The police are actually involved as well and we're also speaking to Chris to look at what we can do to support him."

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty
(Image: PA)

Asked directly if Prof Whitty could be given police protection, Ms Patel told Times Radio: "I can’t speak about that, but it's important that we make sure that Chris is, you know, given the right kind of support.

"It is terrible to see such an important public figure, someone that day in day out has been serving our country in the way in which he has to keep us safe being subject to just appalling abuse."

It followed an outpouring of criticism from political figures, and demands for Prof Whitty to get security after previous videos showed him being harassed in a similar way.

Boris Johnson with Chris Whitty (file photo)
(Image: PA)

Labour shadow minister Jim McMahon told Sky News: “My hope and expectation is that he and other senior public facing scientists and professionals have had the proper security review that they deserve.”

He added: "There’s a question for me about why he is walking from building to building alone, recognising the heightened public tension."

Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth tweeted: "Agree totally unacceptable. Appalling behaviour from idiot thugs. Solidarity & full support to [the CMO] who is an exceptional, dedicated public servant. The nation is lucky to have him."

Schools Minister Nick Gibb told Sky News: “I think this thing is absolutely appalling and I’m sure all your viewers and the general public will absolutely condemn the behaviour of these yobs.

“This is now a matter of police investigation and I hope the whole weight of the law will come down on people who engage in that kind of behaviour.”

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Whether he should have police protection “is a matter for the security services”, he added.

Labour MP Jess Phillips said Prof Whitty had been made to feel "awful and uncomfortable" and issued a reminder that public figures "are human beings".

"Even if you perceive it as non violent it is clear that he felt awful and uncomfortable and resisted," Ms Phillips tweeted.

"Public figures are not dolls, they are human beings, it is stunning how easily this is forgotten."

Newly appointed Health Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: "I’ve seen the video of the CMO being harassed. It’s appalling and totally unacceptable.

"The CMO works tirelessly on behalf of the country. We will not tolerate this sort of behaviour towards our public servants. The men behaving in this disgraceful way should be ashamed."

The thugs put their arm around the Chief Medical Officer's neck

England's chief medical officer is seen being manhandled by the duo in the clip spread online.

Both men excitedly chant "oi oi" and say "one photo please" as the scientist – who has helped lead the country through the pandemic – looks uncomfortable.

Prof Whitty is shown ducking to get free after one of the men puts his arm around his neck as they try to take a selfie, only for them to follow him.