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Government scientist’s lockdown breach ‘a matter for the police’ says ‘speechless’ Matt Hancock

Government scientist’s lockdown breach ‘a matter for the police’ says ‘speechless’ Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock was quizzed about Professor Neil Ferguson's resignation (Sky News)

3 min read

The decision by a leading Government scientist to break the coronavirus lockdown rules he helped write is a “matter for the police”, according to Matt Hancock.

The Health Secretary said he was “speechless” after learning that Professor Neil Ferguson had allowed his married lover to visit him twice while strict social distancing measures were in place.

Appearing on Sky News he was asked if the leading epidemiologist, who has now resigned, has been prosecuted by police for his actions.

Mr Hancock said: “The answer to that is that I don’t know. The first I heard about this was when I read it in the newspapers.

“It’s not a story that I’ve been following closely, but clearly, the social distancing rules are there for everyone, and they’re incredibly important, and they’re deadly serious.

“And the reason is because they’re the means by which we’ve managed to get control of this virus.”

As he struggled to respond to the story, presenter Kay Burley asked the Cabinet minister if he was “speechless” when he heard the news.

“I am, and that doesn’t often happen to me Kay,” he replied.

Pressed on whether Professor Ferguson should he be prosecuted, Mr Hancock replied: “It’s a matter for the police.

“As a Government minister I’m not allowed to get involved in the operational decisions of police matters but… I think that you know the social distancing rules are very important and people should follow them.”

Professor Ferguson’s resignation followed that of Scotland’s former chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood, who was given a police warning after visiting her second home during lockdown.

Asked if the same thing should happen in this situation, Mr Hancock said officers “will take their decisions independently from ministers”.

But he added: “I think he took the right decision to resign.”

According to the Daily Telegraph, which broke the story about Professor Ferguson, he 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

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."

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