Neil Ferguson hints at government hypocrisy over his lockdown breach compared to Dominic Cummings

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2-min read
Famous lockdown breaches: Prof Neil Ferguson and Dominic Cummings. (Getty Images)
Famous lockdown breaches: Prof Neil Ferguson and Dominic Cummings. (Getty Images)

Lockdown scientist Neil Ferguson has hinted at government hypocrisy over how his lockdown rule-breaking was handled compared to that of Dominic Cummings.

Prof Ferguson, the scientist whose coronavirus modelling convinced Boris Johnson to impose the first lockdown on 23 March last year, told The Guardian’s Today In Focus podcast he was “conscious of the difference” in how ministers discussed both cases.

Both breaches happened at similar times, shortly after the lockdown was introduced.

  • On 5 May, Prof Ferguson resigned from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) after admitting he broke the rules by allowing his “lover” into his London home. The Daily Telegraph reported that two visits happened, on 30 March, one week after the lockdown started, and 8 April.

  • On 22 May, it emerged Cummings, Johnson’s chief adviser, had driven 250 miles from London to his parents’ home in Durham after he and his wife developed COVID-19 symptoms. On 12 April, he also drove to Barnard Castle, claiming he needed to test his eyesight. Despite a public uproar, he didn’t resign and Johnson didn’t sack him.

On the podcast, questioning revolved around Matt Hancock’s suggestion on 6 May that police should investigate Prof Ferguson’s breach.

The health secretary had told Sky News: “Even though I have got a clear answer to what I think, as a minister the way we run the police is that they make decisions like this. So I give them their space to make that decision."

On 25 May, Hancock tweeted in defence of “Dom Cummings” and called for people to “move on” from the row. At a Downing Street press conference on 26 May, he also claimed Cummings acted within the guidelines.

Watch: 2020 footage of Neil Ferguson talking about COVID

Reflecting on both cases 10 months on, Prof Ferguson said: “They are not exactly comparable incidents. I was never employed by the government, I have always been an unpaid adviser while Dominic Cummings’ job was on the line."

But he then added: "Let’s say I was conscious of the difference of how the two incidents were handled and the comments of ministers.”

Read more:

Here are the key lockdown dates coming up across the UK

'What about Dominic?' Moment Matt Hancock heckled over Cummings criticism during speech to MPs

He said of his rule breach: “I did exactly the wrong thing. I was working 18-hour days and wasn’t thinking it through very clearly. I apologised for it and will do so again.”

Prof Ferguson also claimed some Conservative MPs, "including some in government", contacted him saying they were "quite shocked" at what had happened to him.

Watch: How England is leaving lockdown