Breaking News: Government coronavirus adviser quits after breaking lockdown rules

Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist whose modelling convinced Boris Johnson to press ahead with a UK-wide lockdown, stood down from the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) after allegations emerged in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday evening.

Ashley Cowburn Political Correspondent www.independent.co.uk

A key scientist advising the government on coronavirus has resigned after reportedly flouting social distancing restrictions, admitting he made an “error of judgement”.

Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist whose modelling convinced Boris Johnson to press ahead with a UK-wide lockdown, stood down from the scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) after allegations emerged in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday evening.

It was claimed professor Ferguson had allowed a woman to visit him at home in London at least two occasions during the lockdown.

In a statement, the professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, said: “I accept I made an error of judgement and took the wrong course of action.“

He continued: “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.“

A government spokesman confirmed Prof Ferguson’s resignation when approached by The Independent.

His is not the first high-profile resignation of the pandemic, with Dr Catherine Calderwood having quit as Scotland’s chief medical officer after making two trips to her second home.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, told The Telegraph: “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 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.“

Prof Ferguson’s research with Imperial College London colleagues warned that 250,000 people could die in the UK without drastic action shortly before the prime minister imposed the restrictions.