This U.K. scientist helped shape the country’s social distancing rules. Then he broke them

May 6, 2020, 10:15 AM UTC

The scientist whose analysis pushed Boris Johnson to put the U.K. into lockdown has resigned from his advisory role after the Telegraph reported he’d broken social distancing rules to meet a woman.

Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, led the team that produced a model in March showing deaths from coronavirus would shoot up and overwhelm the health service without a lockdown.

He said Tuesday evening he had “stepped back” from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, which has been guiding the British response, on Tuesday evening. Its members are under increasing pressure over their advice, with the U.K. death toll now the highest in Europe.

“I accept I made an error of judgment and took the wrong course of action,” Ferguson said in an emailed statement. “I acted in the belief that I was immune, having tested positive for coronavirus and completely isolated myself for almost two weeks. I deeply regret any undermining of the clear messages around the continued need for social distancing.”

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