UK scientist behind lockdown quits after breaking rules

UK scientist behind lockdown quits after breaking rules
UK scientist behind lockdown quits after breaking rules

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - A top scientist who advised British leaders on coronavirus lockdown measures said on Tuesday he had resigned from a key government panel after admitting to breaking the country's rules on social distancing.

Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist on the advisory team helping the UK coordinate its pandemic response, stepped down following media reports that he had allowed a woman to visit him at home.

"I accept I made an error of judgement and took the wrong course of action," he said.

"I deeply regret any undermining of the clear messages around the continued need for social distancing to control this devastating epidemic."

The scientist said he had "stepped back" from his role on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. A government spokesman confirmed his resignation.

Mr Ferguson's academic team produced modelling on the likely spread of the virus which has been repeatedly cited by ministers, and is seen as a turning point in their response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The model showed that under a reasonable worst-case scenario as many as 500,000 people could die. It contributed to the decision to impose the most far-reaching restrictions on daily life in Britain's peacetime history to stop the spread of the virus.

"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," Mr Ferguson's statement said.

"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."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was hospitalised by the disease and has now recovered, ordered the initial three-week lockdown on March 23.

Under the measures, "non-essential" shops and services were shut while residents were told not to go out except for exercise and to buy essential items. Police were given powers to fine those flouting the rules.

The lockdown was extended for another three weeks in mid-April, but Johnson is soon expected to set out his plan to lift the stringent rules, according to media reports.

Britain, the world's second worst-hit country after the US with more than 32,000 coronavirus deaths, imposed strict stay-at-home orders in late March.

Updated: May 6, 2020 10:33 AM

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