May 5, 2020 - World

Top U.K. coronavirus scientist resigns after breaking lockdown rules

No. 10 Downing Street

10 Downing Street. Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Neil Ferguson, one of the U.K.'s most prominent epidemiologists working on coronavirus response, resigned Tuesday after breaking lockdown rules to have a woman visit him at home, the Telegraph first reported.

The big picture: Models produced by Ferguson and his team at Imperial College London warned that 250,000 people could die from the coronavirus in the U.K. unless the government took drastic action to stem the spread. The projections ultimately contributed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to lock down the country after initially ruling against it.

What he's saying: Ferguson told the Telegraph Tuesday that he felt he had undermined his own public calls for social distancing.

  • “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 [Strategic Advisory Group of Experts]."
  • “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.”
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