There's now a Chris Whitty appreciation club and it's every bit as weird and wonderful as it sounds
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As lockdown eases and the UK adjusts to the "new normal", the heroes and villains of our emergency coronavirus response have begun to emerge.

Clearly, the NHS workers risking their lives to protect us are the real heroes of this saga, but others have gained glowing reputations too.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, for instance, gained a massive boost in his approval ratings after he unveiled his emergency response fund and also became something of an Instagram icon. (In certain circles, anyway...)

Government adviser Dominic Cummings, on the other hand, will forever be plagued by his infamous trip to Barnard Castle and subsequent refusal to resign.

Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and the rest of the government are all also facing a public reckoning for their handling of coronavirus.

This scrutiny will only increase as we discover how effective their initial response to the pandemic proves to be in the long run, both on public health and the economy.

But one – perhaps rather unlikely – man can rest assured that his reputation has only been boosted during the pandemic.

Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical adviser to the government, has ascended to the status of cult icon and built up thousands of fans online.

"The Chris Whitty Appreciation Society" has over 5,000 members on Facebook, where it posts news updates and adoring fan art of the eminent scientist.

Its founder, Sean Ryan, says that he began the fan club when he noticed Professor Whitty was getting a tough time online after his appearances at the government's daily press conferences.

He told ITV's This Morning:

Here's this guy thrust into the public light, almost like the shy retiring type, and we saw him getting a bit of a hard time online.

I didn't think he really deserved it and there were lots of people who did want to share their appreciation towards him. 

Fan club members have shared their homages to the CMO on Instagram.

Most impressive of all is this uncanny bust of Chris Whitty, finished in bronze resin by Cornish artist Penny Lally.

Lally, who has sculpted everyone from Barack Obama to Graham Norton, told This Morning that she enjoyed sculpting the Chief Medical Officer because he's "got a really interesting face".

The Appreciation Society have also sold Chris Whitty merchandise with profits going to charity.

The society say they have raised over £3,500 for NHS Charities Together this way.

People are also selling Chris Whitty masks, T-shirts, bunting and giant paper cut-outs.

Why do people love Chris Whitty so much?

There's something about shy and slightly awkward public figures that seems to attract armies of stans.

Virtually the same thing happened to Ed Miliband in 2015 after he tripped off his podium at Question Time and infamously failed to eat a bacon sandwich correctly.

Then-teenager Abby Tomlinson created the #Milifandom and the rest is history.

Like Miliband in the run-up to the general election, Whitty burst into the public's consciousness at a time when all eyes were on the news.

His fans fawned over his television appearances and were quick to leap to his defence when he was given a tough time in the media.

This was also a time of great uncertainty when people were looking to scientists for reassurance after coronavirus totally upended our ordinary lives.

But without daily appearances at government press conferences, will appreciation for Professor Whitty begin to wane?

His stan army doesn't think so.

A recent post on his Facebook appreciation page praises Whitty for how far he has come since his earliest media appearances.

He seems to have grown in confidence.

Could it be because of the appreciation we have shown him on here? 

Others were delighted to see Whitty's return to their screens in a recent news conference.

One user wrote "I've missed this face" while another wrote "yay! He's back on!".

There's nothing like being shy and awkward to endear a person to the British public.

Because perhaps on some level we are all Professor Chris Whitty, awkwardly trying to deflect too much attention away from ourselves and just trying our best in the face of unprecedented circumstances.

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