Professor Neil Ferguson allowed Antonia Staats to visit him during lockdown. Picture: Facebook
Professor Neil Ferguson allowed Antonia Staats to visit him during lockdown. Picture: Facebook

Scientist who recommended lockdown, broke rules to see lover

The scientist whose advice led to Boris Johnson putting Britain into lockdown has resigned from his government advisory position after he broke social distancing rules to meet his married lover.

Professor Neil Ferguson, 51, allowed the woman to visit him at home during the lockdown while lecturing the public on the need for strict social distancing to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Antonia Staats, 38, lives with her husband and their children in a £1.9 million ($3.68 million) house, UK's Daily Telegraph reported.

Prof Ferguson leads the team at Imperial College London that handed a bombshell piece of research to the government which said failing to take drastic action would cause 250,000 deaths and overwhelm the NHS.

Professor Neil Ferguson has resigned from his government position. Picture: BBC
Professor Neil Ferguson has resigned from his government position. Picture: BBC

It was a hammer blow to the government's initial hopes of defeating the virus by building "herd immunity" in the community.

But despite his support for the nationwide lockdown, Prof Ferguson failed to follow social distancing rules himself. Just last week he warned lifting the lockdown too early could risk an additional 100,000 deaths.

On at least two occasions, Ms Staats travelled across London to see the government scientist.

Her first visit, on March 30, coincided with a public warning by Prof Ferguson the lockdown measures would need to stay in place until June.

She made a second trip on April 8 despite telling friends she suspected her husband - an academic in his thirties - had coronavirus symptoms.

Prof Ferguson accepted he had made an "error of judgment and took the wrong course of action".

He 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.

Antonia Staats is understood to be in an open marriage. Picture: Facebook
Antonia Staats is understood to be in an open marriage. Picture: Facebook


"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 had stepped back from his role.

Ms Staats is understood to be in an open marriage.

She declined to comment.

Prof Ferguson said he had acted in the belief he was immune. Picture: Imperial College of London/Youtube
Prof Ferguson said he had acted in the belief he was immune. Picture: Imperial College of London/Youtube

Last month Scotland's chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood was forced to resign after making two trips to her second home during the coronavirus lockdown.

And Cabinet Minister Robert Jenrick travelled 240km from London to his £1.1 million ($A2.13 million) home in Herefordshire, where he is now living with his family, after travel to second homes was banned.

The housing, communities and local government secretary later made a 64km trip to visit his elderly parents in Shropshire.

He said he was delivering food and medicine and did not go inside their house.

The police in England and Wales have handed out more than 9000 fines during the lockdown.

This story first appeared in The Sun and has been reproduced with permission

Originally published as Scientist breaks lockdown with lover



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