Love in times of pandemic costs Neil Ferguson his Covid-19 advisory role

Wednesday 13th May 2020 08:41 EDT

All is fair in love and war, or so they say. Prof Neil Ferguson took it quite literally, it seems. As the world declared war on Covid-19, it was Prof Ferguson’s advice to the government that led to the UK lockdown. Weeks later, ‘Prof Lockdown’ failed to practice what he preached, to please his married love.

Prof Ferguson had strongly advocated for strict restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. While citizens struggled to cope with lockdown, the 52-year-old could not persuade his 38-year-old lover to stay home.

Prof Ferguson admitted to have allowed his lover Antonia Staats, who is in an open marriage, to visit him at his London home during lockdown. They reportedly did this at least twice.

They came in touch through dating application Ok Cupid — which makes them sound like teenagers desperately seeking love. She works for Avaaz, an online campaigning group that is clamouring for “green corona recovery now”, according to a report in The Times

The repercussion: He quits as a government adviser on coronavirus.

It gets a tad more complicated since both happen to be married — Antonia to Chris Lucas, an Arabic professor, who speaks several languages, and looks like a younger version of Neil the scientist, and Neil to an unassuming lady named Kim Polgreen. The younger couple has two children. Neil, and his estranged wife Kim Polgreen, have a child. Antonia has talked about her ‘open marriage’ in interviews and admitted the Covid crisis has posed an “interesting lockdown challenge”. She lives the good life in a 1.9-million-pound home, and has joked it’s hard to cope with domestic chores in the absence of a cleaner and an au pair.

We don’t know what Kim is going through, since she has decided not to comment on the saga, which has all of Britain hanging on to every salacious detail. Neil and Antonia met on the OkCupid app — which makes them sound like teenagers desperately seeking love.

His mother-in-law, surprisingly, was one of his prime defenders: “He’s working his socks off and this is how he is repaid?”

Ferguson developed models that predicted hundreds of thousands would die unless the UK imposed drastic restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Prof Ferguson, who was dubbed "Prof Lockdown" for his regular broadcast appearances, said he had made an ‘error of judgment’ and he regretted undermining the norms of social distancing.

Reacting to the lockdown violation by the professor, the police has said that it will not investigate the scientist.

Terming the incident as ‘disappointing’, the Scotland Yard ruled out pursuing the matter because his decision to quit as a government adviser means that he ‘has taken responsibility’.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Prof Ferguson made the "right decision to resign" but added it was a matter for the police to decide whether to take further action.

Mr Hancock admitted he was left speechless after learning of the Imperial College London scientist's "extraordinary" actions.

Hancock said Ferguson was a very eminent and impressive scientist, but took the right decision to resign.

Ferguson has become a well-known figure in Britain, making frequent media appearances during the outbreak. On March 18, he tweeted that he had a fever and cough, symptoms of Covid-19, and that there was a small risk he had infected others.

Ferguson is the second scientific adviser in the U K to quit after failing to follow their own advice. Catherine Calderwood resigned as Scotland's chief medical officer last month for twice travelling from Edinburgh to her second home.

As one of the founders of the MRC Centre for Global Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, Ferguson's work has been instrumental in shaping public health responses to outbreaks including swine flu, Ebola and Zika. Ferguson has long advised authorities including the World Health Organization and national governments in Britain, Europe and the U.S.

On March 16, Ferguson and colleagues published a paper suggesting that even with some social distancing measures, the U.K. could see 250,000 virus-related deaths and the United States a death toll of about 1 million. Ferguson predicted those figures could more than double in both countries in a worst-case scenario.

The following day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised Britons to work from home, if possible, and to avoid unnecessary social gatherings.

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