One of the government’s leading scientific advisers, professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, has stepped down from his government position after breaking lockdown rules. According to the Telegraph, the academic was visited on at least two occasions by a married woman, who lives in a separate household.
Ferguson told the Telegraph that:
“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… 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.
Ferguson has been one of the most influential academics in the UK since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, and was one of the fiercest proponents of the lockdown measures. It was his Imperial College London team’s disease modelling in March that led to the nationwide lockdown measures being put in place, after he forecast 250,000 deaths in the UK if stricter measures were not taken to prevent the spread of the disease.
Unfortunately for Ferguson, a precedent for breaking lockdown measures was set in April, when the Scottish Chief Medical Officer, Catherine Calderwood, was caught visiting her holiday home and resigned shortly afterwards. Despite his more informal role as an adviser, it would have been difficult for Ferguson to continue defining government policy after flouting lockdown rules.
For now though, the question still remains: has Ferguson’s disease modelling been as reliable as his judgment?