UK Government Scientist Broke Own Lockdown Rules to See Married Lover

Professor Neil Ferguson has resigned from his position on the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.
May 6, 2020, 9:13am
professor neil ferguson breaks lockdown
Professor Neil Ferguson. Screenshot: BBC

Sometimes, those who make the rules break the rules. Traditionally, that meant MPs using expenses to add a loft extension to their second home in rural Wiltshire. More recently, it's come to mean medical experts breaking the same coronavirus lockdown rules they've publicly backed.

First: Scotland's chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood, who resigned after she was photographed visiting her holiday home instead of staying put in Edinburgh. Now: Professor Neil Ferguson – the epidemiologist nicknamed "Dr Lockdown" for advising Boris Johnson to lock down Britain – who has resigned from his government advisory position after breaking social distancing rules to meet his married lover on at least two separate occasions.


Before having 38-year-old Antonia Staats over to his home, Professor Ferguson had finished a two-week isolation period after testing positive for coronavirus.

"I accept I made an error of judgment and took the wrong course of action," the 51-year-old told the Telegraph. "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.

"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."

Ms Staats – who is understood to be in an open marriage, but declined to comment to the Telegraph – first visited Ferguson's home on the 30th of March, the same day he warned that the lockdown would have to continue until June.

While Professor Ferguson might be one of the more hypocritical examples of social distancing rules being broken, he's definitely not the first to meet up with a lover since lockdown started. But as the UK's death toll surpasses Italy's to become the highest in Europe, multiple government figures continue to stress the importance of staying at home.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: "Scientists like him have told us we should not be [breaking lockdown rules], 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 to. 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."