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Wed, 27 January 2021

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Top government coronavirus scientist quits after he admits ‘undermining’ lockdown rules

Top government coronavirus scientist quits after he admits ‘undermining’ lockdown rules

The government had told couples living apart that they should not visit during lockdown

2 min read

One of the Government's leading coronavirus scientists has resigned after breaking lockdown rules.

Professor Neil Ferguson said he had stepped down from his role advising ministers on the coronavirus lockdown after "undermining the clear message" to stay at home.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Professor Ferguson had allowed a woman to visit his home on two occasions - despite previously testing positive for the virus and spending two weeks in self-isolation.

The academic, who has made several media appearances defending the social distancing rules, had led the team of researchers at Imperial College London who predicted that failure to introduce the measures could have led to as many as 500,00 deaths in the country.

That modeling formed part of the advice which prompted Boris Johnson to introduce the strict lockdown last month, with ministers saying the rules would mean couples who lived in seperate couples should not travel to visit each other.

Announcing his resignation, Professor Ferguson said: "I accept I made an error of judgement 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].

"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 added: "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."

It comes after Scotland's chief medical officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, was forced to resign last month after receiving a warning from police for making two visits to her family's second home.

Responding to the reports, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith told the paper: "Scientists like him have told us we should not be doing it, so surely in his case it is a case of we have been doing as he says and he has been doing as he wants."

"He has peculiarly breached his own guidelines and for an intelligent man I find that very hard to believe. It risks undermining the Government's lockdown message."

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