‘A chastened Neil Ferguson this week admitted his ‘error of judgement’ in allowing his married lover to visit him at home, in a flagrant breach of the lockdown rules that stem, in large part, from his own research.
Flesh is frail, and if the 51-year-old professor’s trysts with blonde Antonia Staats, 38, were his only ‘error of judgement’, many would forgive him. But the career of this all-too-influential scientist has been marred by frequent questions about his modelling.
From foot and mouth to swine flu and BSE, Ferguson has reliably popped up to brandish complex forecasts featuring terrifying death tolls – models that hold ministers in thrall.
Now his critics argue that his predictions around coronavirus – which were crucial in persuading the Government to impose the lockdown that is crippling our economy and causing untold social damage – could prove to be his most controversial yet.
On March 16, Ferguson and his team at Imperial College London published a now-famous paper claiming that coronavirus was so deadly, more than 500,000 Britons would die if nothing was done to tackle it.
About 250,000 would perish, they added, if the Government maintained its then-policy of social distancing without a lockdown. Other researchers made the same prediction.
That very day, Boris Johnson told the nation to keep out of pubs, restaurants and other crowded places – and a week later ordered us all to remain at home except in specific circumstances.
So how have Ferguson’s predictions fared? In early April Swedish scientists ran Ferguson’s model to try to predict the death toll in the Scandinavian country if the government there chose to avoid lockdown.’