Downing Street has branded social media footage of a verbal attack on Professor Chris Whitty as “unacceptable”.
A video shared on TikTok showed a young man repeatedly accusing England’s chief medical officer of “lying” about Covid-19, while the scientist was out walking near Westminster in central London.
The incident was condemned by Downing Street on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “Chris Whitty is an outstanding public servant who has worked incredibly hard and tirelessly to help steer us through what has been a very, very challenging time over the past year.
“And it is clearly unacceptable that somebody who has done so much is being subject to this sort of behaviour.”
The catcaller who confronted Prof Whitty in the street was earlier labelled “pathetic” by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
In the footage, the young man, who is holding the camera, walks around Prof Whitty, telling him: “Liar. You’re a liar. Mandem is a liar. You’re a liar. You lie about the Covid-19 cases. Stop lying to the TV, man.”
It is unclear when the video was taken, but Prof Whitty did not respond to the taunts and appeared to be waiting for food from a nearby market stall.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Hancock said: “I think the individual concerned is pathetic, I think it is ridiculous what he is doing.
“Chris Whitty is one of our greatest living scientists and his advice to the Government all the way through this, and his advice to all of us in the population, has been incredibly smart and thoughtful, and he is a great asset to this nation.
“The idea that someone would do something as silly as that is ridiculous.”
He added: “Chris Whitty is a scientist of great repute and, frankly, he should be respected by everybody.”