Novelty items featuring one of the most prominent faces of the UK’s Covid response, Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty, are reportedly more popular than those depicting some of the world’s biggest celebrities.

According to a report by the BBC, Whitty and his deputy, Jonathan Van-Tam, have become “two unlikely cult heroes on novelty mugs, T-shirts, beer labels, birthday cards and even prayer candles” in the lead-up to Christmas.

One gift merchant, Hannah Spiers, told the outlet that items with Whitty’s face on have been outselling items featuring Britney Spears and Michael Jackson. “We’re trying to work out why we’ve sold so many!” she said.

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Spiers added that her company’s Chris Whitty appreciation mug had been the “biggest seller of the year,” and “sold 10 times [as many as] our second best seller” in the past 24 hours alone.

Favorable reviews have described the mug as “pure genius” and a “great funny secret Santa gift.” 

Other items available via Spiers’ online store include face mask- and hand sanitiser-themed bottles of wine, and mugs emblazoned with the image of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak – another prominent face of the UK’s pandemic response. 

University College London psychologist Dr. Dimitrios Tsivrikos explained to the BBC that Whitty’s popularity at the moment is likely due to the fact that he and other officials have become “brand ambassadors” for the Covid-19 pandemic.

“They’re part of the solution, so they’re seen as heroes,” Tsivrikos said, predicting that similar pieces of merchandise would appear throughout the pandemic, including T-shirts that proclaim the wearer has been vaccinated. 

A similar phenomenon has been noted in the United States, where White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr Anthony Fauci has become a similarly popular icon. 

Pillows, soaps, tree ornaments, bobblehead collectible dolls, and Christmas sweaters featuring Fauci’s name and likeness are just a few of the items being manufactured and sold Stateside in the run-up to Christmas.

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