The UK Government was told by intelligence chiefs not to trust the information coming out of China, over fears Beijing was covering up the true scale of the coronavirus outbreak, it is claimed. A senior former MI6 official claimed Britain’s intelligence agencies knew what was “really happening” from the start and had made ministers “fully aware”. The claims add to the mounting criticism Boris Johnson was too late to introduce the UK’s strict lockdown measures.
A former MI6 official told the Daily Telegraph: “The idea that the UK would have taken Chinese figures at face value is frankly ridiculous.
“If the Chinese are lying, the role of the intelligence community is to know what the real figures might be if they are being hidden.
“We didn’t believe these figures coming from China.
“The Government would have been fully aware of the true scale of the virus in China at that time.”
The Prime Minister has already been accused of failing to act decisively in the wake of coronavirus, after it was revealed he skipped five CORBA meetings on the outbreak at the beginning of the year.
In recent weeks doubts have been raised over the true extent of the coronavirus death toll in China, as well as Beijing’s claims the outbreak began in a wet-market in Wuhan, where live animals were being sold.
A leaked intelligence dossier, from the Five Eyes security alliance of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, cites evidence that the virus was passed to humans via a Wuhan lab.
It also claims China persecuted whistleblowers as part of the cover-up, and obstructed efforts by other countries to develop a vaccine.
So far, most world leaders – with the exception of US President Donald Trump, have been reluctant to vocalise criticism of Beijing.
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8am update: ‘Bounce back’ scheme struggling firms launches today
Desperate small businesses will be able to get hold of vital cash payouts to shore up their finances from today.
Up to £50,000 will be available to help struggling firms that have slipped through the cracks so far under the “bounce back” scheme.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the loans would help the smallest firms and sole traders such as hairdressers, coffee shops and florists.
He said: “Small businesses will play a key role creating jobs and securing economic growth as we recover from the Coronavirus pandemic.
“The bounce back loan scheme will make sure they get the finance they need – helping them bounce back and protect jobs.”
Applications will be simple, quick and the money will be interest free for the first year, according to the Treasury.
Owners will need to fill out a two page form online for up to five percent of their turnover capped at £50,000 and cash will be paid out within 24 hours of approval.
Interest and fees will be covered by the government for the first 12 months and loan repayments will also only begin after that time.
The state is also shouldering 100 per cent of the risk of the payouts.
By Sam Lister
Published at Mon, 04 May 2020 06:11:00 +0000