The Plague-Ground – Is a pandemic a good time to have an affair?

No, and for three reasons: it’s hard to get together,  and even if you do, you’ll likely get caught. What’s more, if you get caught and get thrown out of the house, where exactly will you go?

But I ask because affairs generally unravel social cohesion and when 8 billion of us are already enduring The Great Unravelling, it seems timely.

It certainly did unravel for Neil Ferguson, one of Boris Johnson’s chief strategists of Britain’s Not Very Good coronavirus response. Earlier this week, The Guardian reported on his indiscretion for which they wrote one of the great “ledes” in modern journalism:

Prof Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist whose modelling helped shape Britain’s coronavirus lockdown strategy, has quit as a government adviser after flouting the rules by receiving visits from his lover at his home.

Professor Ferguson is single, but it turns out his lover, Antonia Staats, is married with children. She lives in a far distant corner from him in London, and crossed town at least twice to be with him. As The Guardian said: “Friends told the newspaper that Staats did not believe their actions to be hypocritical because she considered the households to be one.”

I guess two households situated miles apart can be considered to be one —  in a quantum calculus kind of way. But not really. And it seems there are more people in Ms. Staat’s household (her husband, their kids) than in Professor Ferguson’s (him and him alone). So maybe her hypocrisy is different from what she thinks. I get that here in Canada families who are ‘safe’ can couple up to share childcare and errands, but I don’t think these two London families will be coupling in that kind of way any time soon.

Especially since it turns out Prof. Ferguson had tested positive for coronavirus, though he’d completely isolated for two weeks and “acted in the belief that I was immune” to the disease, though not immune to the withering scorn.

One of the things I love about Britain is the clear Upstairs/Downstairs distinction between the ‘quality’ press and the ‘tabloids’. While The Guardian’s  tone was one of disappointment, The Sun, well, read all about it:

“Professor Neil Ferguson was one of the chief advisers to the Government on the Covid pandemic. But while you were eagerly awaiting a delivery from the Co-Op or Morrisons, he was awaiting delivery of Ms Antonia Staats”.

She’s a married woman and a leftie agitator. Who lives on the other side of London to the Prof.”

“Didn’t bother him one bit. So long as he could have a nice evening of trying to flatten her curves and show her the extent of his spread.” 

I guess that’s another price you pay for being a public official getting caught in what you thought was a private indiscretion.

I’m not talking about social media here or online trolls. This is good old-fashioned gutter journalism.

But social media will come into play if you’re having an affair during the pandemic.

The Guardian also reported that Belgium plans to hire 2,000 investigators to trace all your past contacts if you test positive for coronavirus. They promise to keep this information confidential.

They. Promise. To. Keep. This. Information. Confidential.

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Get your tickets to the TWO upcoming RamsayTalks Online: May 14th  with Jared Diamond, “one of the deepest thinkers of our time,” and May 25th with Roger McNamee who believes tech is too important to operate without adult supervision.


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8 thoughts on “The Plague-Ground – Is a pandemic a good time to have an affair?”

  1. Katherine Carleton

    You made me google Professor Ferguson, and that’s five minutes of snorting and giggling I’ll never regret. What a prince of a man!

  2. Thanks, Bob, for the critiques of the lede-writing styles of the deathless English press. Maybe we can all play a j-school game, “Rewrite the Lede”?

    Here’s my take

    “Neil ‘Professor Lockdown’ Ferguson, the scientist who crafted Britain’s adulterated COVID strategy…”

    1. Ah, George, a fellow lede follower. I’d forgotten just how wretched the British tabloids are in their excess. I love it !

  3. Privacy: why I hardly know ya!
    Gone are the days of discreet indiscretions (covid-19 and the tracers will ferret you out). What would Pamela Harrison had done?

  4. Madeline Thompson

    Delicious post! absolutely yummy comments. Do love it so and
    desperately needed a bit salacious-ness in my life. Thank you!!
    Also itching for retail therapy – soon, soon! (sorry, am a bit late
    with this response).

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