As the Neil Ferguson scandal dominates headlines across the UK media, many online are questioning the rather conspicuous timing of the revelations, which coincide with grim and embarrassing news for the government.
The one-time UK coronavirus tsar Ferguson resigned in disgrace from his position as advisor and strategist to 10 Downing Street on Tuesday night amid revelations of a tryst with a married woman, 38-year-old Antonia Starts, which contravened his own proposed lockdown and social distancing measures.
The first reported instance of their now widely-covered lockdown love affair took place on March 30, followed by another romantic get-together on April 8. So why did it take so long for these egregious violations to come to light, given the public health risk posed by such reckless abandon? This is a question which is being repeatedly asked among the more skeptical minded on social media.
Eyebrows were raised over the questionable timing of the revelation, which coincided with the day that the UK officially overtook Italy as the epicenter of the coronavirus in Europe.
Dr. Anthony Costello, a former director at the World Health Organization, asked: “Why was this non-news released on the day our death rates overtook Italy? And before imminent decisions to lift the lockdown in the UK and US? Who else will be scapegoated?”
Ferguson’s perceived scapegoating was made even more conspicuous as lockdown measures are expected to begin scaling back in the coming weeks, something which Boris Johnson hinted at during a session in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Others highlighted yet more examples of the conspicuous timing of human interest stories eclipsing major coronavirus developments – including the birth of Boris Johnson’s son – though that may be more a case of British media’s editorial decision-making than governmental conspiracy.
“Care Home deaths added to the death toll on the day Boris’s son is born – Govt waited for the right moment,” wrote one perturbed Twitter user. “On the day UK overtakes Italy in deaths, Neil Ferguson is scapegoated.”
Some highlighted the fact that the Telegraph got the scoop on the Ferguson love affair as being rather convenient, given that Boris Johnson was once employed by the paper.
Others outright accused the press of complicity with the government, insinuating the British media sat on the story for a month. For now at least, the one-time paragon of viral virtue has been hung out to dry, as the UK struggles to come to terms with its botched response to the pandemic.