- Neil Ferguson – whose research convinced the UK government to ditch its “herd immunity” strategy and enter its ongoing lockdown – resigned Tuesday as a government adviser.
- He resigned after breaking social distancing rules to meet with his lover, who is married to another man and lives with her husband and children in a different part of London, according to The Telegraph.
- Ferguson, who advocated for the country’s lockdown, contracted and recovered from COVID-19 in March and is speculated to have been “patient zero” in a string of infections at Downing Street that included Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
- “I deeply regret any undermining of the clear messages around the continued need for social distancing to control this devastating epidemic,” Ferguson, who has been nicknamed “Professor Lockdown,” said in a statement.
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Neil Ferguson, the UK scientist who was instrumental in designing the nation’s COVID-19 response, has resigned from his position as a government adviser after he broke the nation’s lockdown order to meet with his married lover.
“I accept I made an error of judgment and took the wrong course of action. I have therefore stepped back from my involvement in Sage [the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies],” Ferguson told The Telegraph.
As Business Insider’s Bill Bostock previously reported, Ferguson, the 51-year-old head of the department of infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London, was a key player in developing the British government’s response to COVID-19.
The UK had toyed with the idea of implementing a “herd immunity” strategy, which would have avoided a nationwide lockdown. When Ferguson shared findings that 510,000 people could die under such a strategy, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson reversed course and placed the country on its ongoing lockdown.
In his statement to The Telegraph, Ferguson reiterated the importance of the government’s lockdown guidance.
“I acted in the belief that I was immune, having tested positive for coronavirus, and completely isolated myself for almost two weeks after developing symptoms,” he said. “I deeply regret any undermining of the clear messages around the continued need for social distancing to control this devastating epidemic. The Government guidance is unequivocal, and is there to protect all of us.”
According to the Telegraph, a woman identified as 38-year-old Antonia Staats travelled across London to meet with Ferguson. Staats lives with her husband and children in the south of London, according to the report. Staats did not provide a comment for The Telegraph.
Ferguson has also become famous amid speculation that he transmitted the virus to Johnson and other government officials.
On March 18, the day after Ferguson – nicknamed “Professor Lockdown” for his advocacy of the measure – had presented his research at a news conference at Downing Street and met with senior cabinet members, he began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Ferguson tested positive for the virus the next day.
Not long after, Johnson, his chief adviser Dominic Cummings, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty reported symptoms of the disease. They were diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26 in a wave of cases that hit Downing Street.
While Johnson has since returned to work, he spent three days in intensive care after his condition worsened while he was in the hospital.
Johnson last week said the country would need to remain on lockdown in order to prevent a “new wave of death” in the country.