March 18, 2020 / 8:00 AM / 20 days ago

From Downing Street to isolation for UK professor who swayed virus response

LONDON (Reuters) - A British professor who was in Downing Street this week after convincing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stiffen his response to the coronavirus outbreak has self-isolated after developing a persistent dry cough and a fever.

Neil Ferguson, a professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, produced a projection of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak for the British government and was in Downing Street on Monday.

“Sigh. Developed a slight dry but persistent cough yesterday and self isolated even though I felt fine,” Ferguson said on Twitter.

“Then developed high fever at 4am today. There is a lot of COVID-19 in Westminster.”

It was not immediately clear whether Ferguson had met Johnson face to face although the professor attended Johnson’s news conference.

Johnson’s spokesman said: “We continue to follow Public Health England advice and any person who develops symptoms should self-isolate for seven days. The prime minister is not currently displaying any symptoms.”

He added that the room in which news conferences are held is “thoroughly cleaned along with the lectern and microphones used”.

In his study, Ferguson compared the potential impact of the COVID-19 epidemic with the devastating flu outbreak of 1918 and said that with no mitigating measures at all, the outbreak could cause more than half a million deaths in Britain and 2.2 million in the United States.

Reporting by Kate Holton and Guy Faulconbridge, additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Michael Holden and Stephen Addison

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