It’s an old story ‘It’s one rule for us, another one for them’…
Prof Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist whose modelling helped shape Britain’s coronavirus lockdown strategy, has quit as a government adviser after flouting the rules by receiving visits from his lover at his home.
Ferguson runs the group of scientists at Imperial College London whose projections helped persuade ministers of the need to impose stringent physical distancing rules, or risk the NHS being overwhelmed.
In a statement on Tuesday, he said he was resigning his post on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), over an “error of judgment”.
The Daily Telegraph revealed that Antonia Staats had crossed London from her family home to visit him on at least two occasions since lockdown measures were imposed, on 30 March and 8 April. Friends told the newspaper that Staats did not believe their actions to be hypocritical because she considered the households to be one.
The visits clearly contravene the government’s “stay at home, save lives” message, which urges people to remain within their family groups and not mix with members of other households.
Ferguson unable to take his own advise.
“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,” Ferguson said. “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.
“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.”
“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.
Government advisers have repeatedly warned the public against meetings with members of other households. The deputy chief medical officer for England, Jenny Harries, when asked whether partners living separately could visit each other, said on 24 March: “If the two halves of a couple are currently in separate households, ideally they should stay in those households.”
Ferguson’s resignation follows questions over the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, who travelled to one of his homes outside his constituency to spend lockdown there, and drove to his parents’ house to drop off food and medicines. There had been contradicting reports about both where Jenrick’s official residence was and claims others had helped and collected his parents medicines as an on going care in the community initiative.