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Key government lockdown scientist Prof Neil Ferguson who flouted rules will not be fined by police

Professor Neil Ferguson has resigned after admitting an 'error of judgement'. Credit: Twitter/@neil_ferguson

Top government scientist Professor Neil Ferguson who flouted lockdown rules to see a “lover” will not be fined by police.

The epidemiologist, who was instrumental in the government decision to impose the lockdown, resigned from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) after admitting he made an "error of judgment" when allowing the woman visit him at home in London.

The woman visited him on at least two occasions during the lockdown, despite his position that meetings with anyone outside of your own household is a health risk.

Prof Ferguson said on Tuesday that he regretted “undermining” the continued need for social distancing to tackle coronavirus.

The Metropolitan Police branded Prof Ferguson's actions "plainly disappointing", but said since the 52-year-old had accepted responsibility, they will not take further action.

More than 9,000 fines have been handed out by police for lockdown breaches since the coronavirus crisis began.

In a statement, Scotland Yard said: “We remain committed to our role in supporting adherence to government guidance and have made it clear that our starting position is explaining the need to follow the regulations with anyone who is in breach in order to keep people safe and protect the NHS.

“It is clear in this case that whilst this behaviour is plainly disappointing, Professor Ferguson has accepted that he made an error of judgement and has taken responsibility for that.

“We therefore do not intend to take any further action.”

Boris Johnson's spokesman said the PM "agrees" with Prof Ferguson's decision to resign from Sage, adding how his membership on Nervtag (the new and emerging respiratory virus threats advisory group) had also been relinquished.

More than 9,000 fines have been handed out amid the lockdown. Credit: PA

Prof Ferguson, 52, led a team at Imperial College London which produced a landmark report in March stating that if the UK was not put on lockdown, 250,000 people would die due to coronavirus.

The paper said merely slowing the spread of the virus - which had at that point been the aim - would have led to the NHS being overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases.

In the report’s wake, Prime Minister Johnson announced the lockdown on March 23 ordering the public to stay at home as he shut most shops and gave police unprecedented enforcement powers.

Under those measures, partners who do not live together were told they can no longer see each other.

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Earlier on Wednesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the decision on whether to fine Prof Ferguson was for the police, not government.

Mr Hancock also said he was "speechless" when he heard the news.

“It’s extraordinary. I don’t understand," Mr Hancock told Sky News.

He said Prof Ferguson was right to resign from the scientific advice board, adding it was “just not possible” for him to continue advising the government.

“Professor Ferguson is a very eminent and impressive scientist and the science that he has done has been an important part of what we have listened to.

“I think that he took the right decision to resign.”

Mr Hancock said the social distancing rules “are there for everyone, they are incredibly important and they are deadly serious”.

“They are the means by which we have managed to get control of this virus.”

  • Prof Ferguson broke the lockdown rules twice, the Daily Telegraph reported

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Prof Ferguson said: “I accept I made an error of judgement and took the wrong course of action.

"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.”

The Imperial College Professor tweeted on March 18 he had tested positive for Covid-19 adding it was "a strange experience - to be infected by the virus one is modelling".

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Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in April, Prof Ferguson had stressed the importance of keeping to social distancing guidelines.

He said at the time: “If we want to reopen schools, let people get back to work, then we need to keep transmission down in another manner

“It is not going to go back to normal, we will have to maintain some level of social distancing – significant levels of social distancing – probably indefinitely until we have a vaccine available.”

Professor Neil Ferguson was influential in the lockdown being imposed. Credit: PA

A government spokesperson confirmed Prof Ferguson's resignation from Sage.

Sage is the group that has been advising the government through the outbreak - while it does not make decisions, it advises ministers on evidence that could inform policy.

A statement from Imperial College London said Prof Ferguson “continues to focus on his important research”.

Prof Ferguson, a mathematician and epidemiologist, is not the first high-profile resignation of the pandemic.

Dr Catherine Calderwood quit as Scotland's chief medical officer after making two trips to her second home during lockdown.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know