Future lockdowns now ‘unlikely’ says advisor once known as Professor Lockdown

Future lockdowns now ‘unlikely’ says advisor once known as Professor Lockdown
Professor Neil Ferguson, who helped mastermind first national shuttering, says UK will learn to accept presence of Covid-19 now vaccination has reduced mortality rate

The scientific advisor who helped mastermind last year’s first lockdown has said such action is “unlikely” to ever be needed again to control coronavirus.

Professor Neil Ferguson said case numbers could still rise but a full shuttering or renewed social distancing measures would probably not be required unless the virus “changes substantially”.

He predicted that now vaccination had reduced the mortality rate of Covid-19, the UK would learn to accept its ongoing presence. “I suspect for several years, we will see additional mortality,” he said. “There’s a risk in the winter coming of thousands to tens of thousands more deaths.”

In an interview with The Times newspaper, the Imperial College immunologist also repeated his belief that had Boris Johnson ordered the first lockdown a week earlier in March last year, the death toll of Britain’s first wave would have been reduced by half. “Maybe…by three quarters,” he added.

Roughly, that would have equated to 25,000 lives being saved.

Prod Ferguson also spoke about the scandal which saw him step down from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies last year after he was discovered to have visited a married lover during the height of the first lockdown.

“I just don’t think I was thinking,” he said. “I was working 18 hours a day and it hadn’t properly dawned on me that I was a public figure in that way.”

At the time, the then health minister Matt Hancock said he had been left “speechless” when he found out that the scientist – once nicknamed Professor Lockdown – had broken social distancing rules. But the Tory MP later did the same thing by liaising with his own married lover in breach of restrictions.

Asked if he felt there was hypocrisy at play, Prof Ferguson said: “Actually no, I didn’t. I felt very sorry for everybody involved. Being in the centre of that sort of media storm is horrific, even if there is reason for it. Clearly, there was an error of judgment. But I would not have wanted to be in his position, trying to run the Department of Health in the biggest pandemic in the last 100 years.”

His own position during the pandemic has led him, he admitted to becoming something of a hate-figure for anti-lockdown campaigners and anti-vaxxers.

“I have received hundreds of abusive emails, mostly from people on the conspiracy theory end of the spectrum,” he said. “It’s more depressing than frightening…I am not alone — dozens of scientists I know have suffered similar abuse.”