Professor Jonathan Van-Tam pulled another metaphor out of his kit bag as he urged people to help avoid a “red card” from the Omicron coronavirus variant.

England’s deputy chief medical officer, a keen football fan, compared the current situation to a football team where two key players had received a yellow card.

He said the rest of the team had to “up their game” to prevent going down to 10 players – suggesting that in this case that meant getting a booster jab.

Boston United fan Prof Van-Tam has frequently resorted to metaphors and similes in an attempt to explain the current state of the battle against the pandemic.

On Monday he told a Downing Street press conference that the initial vaccine was like having a full-strength team on the pitch and despite being weakened by injuries – the Alpha and Delta variants – substitutes had been able to “keep us in the game”.

“Omicron is like now picking up a couple of yellow cards to key players on top.

“We may be OK but we’re kind of starting to feel at risk that we might go down to 10 players and if that happens – or it’s a risk that’s going to happen – then we need everyone on the pitch to up their game in the meantime.”

He added:  “We’re not going to wait for the red card to happen, we are going to act decisively now and we’re asking everyone to up their game, we’re asking everyone to play their part in the urgency now of the booster programme, coming forward the moment you are called by the NHS.”

Huddersfield Town v Swansea City – Sky Bet Championship – John Smith’s Stadium
A vaccine centre sign near the John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield (Mike Egerton/PA)

Here are some of the medical chief’s other analogies:

– Grand National

Prof Van-Tam previously compared the pandemic to the famous horse race held annually at Aintree in Liverpool, warning the country must not fall at the final fence.

Speaking to The Sun, he said: “The vaccine effects are going to take three months until we see them properly, and until then no one can relax.

“We are probably in the last few furlongs of this race – like in the Grand National. We just have a couple more fences, we have just got to stick with it.”

– Penalties

Prof Van-Tam spoke about football penalty shootouts as he discussed vaccine breakthroughs.

Deputy chief medical Officer for England Jonathan Van-Tam
Deputy chief medical officer for England Jonathan Van-Tam (John Sibley/PA)

He was discussing how the Pfizer vaccine would affect transmission of the virus.

“So this is like… getting to the end of the play-off final, it’s gone to penalties, the first player goes up and scores a goal.

“You haven’t won the cup yet, but what it does is, it tells you that the goalkeeper can be beaten.”

– Holding on for the win

In a football commentary-style remark about the pandemic, Prof Van-Tam said it was clear that in the first half the away team “gave us an absolute battering”, but that an equalising goal was clinched in the 70th minute.

“OK, we’ve got to hold our nerve now, see if we can get another goal and nick it.

“But the key thing is not to lose it, not to throw it away at this point because we’ve got a point on the board, and we’ve got the draw,” the Boston United season ticket holder said.