- Ministers say China risks becoming a ‘pariah state’ over its handling of outbreak
- They are furious over the Communist state’s campaign of misinformation
- PM Boris Johnson is now facing calls to reverse decision on Huawei 5G deal
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Ministers and senior Downing Street officials said the Communist state now faces a ‘reckoning’ over its handling of the outbreak and risks becoming a ‘pariah state’.
They are furious over China’s campaign of misinformation, attempts to exploit the pandemic for economic gain and atrocious animal rights record.
The Prime Minister, who now faces Cabinet calls to reverse his decision to let controversial Chinese firm Huawei build large parts of Britain’s new 5G telecoms network, today warns that the epidemic is likely to worsen in the coming weeks – but that he expects the British ‘spirit’ to overcome the crisis.
In a letter to 30 million households, Mr Johnson – who was yesterday working in self-isolation in Downing Street after testing positive for the virus – says: ‘Things will get worse before they get better.’
Ministers and senior Downing Street officials said the Communist state now faces a ‘reckoning’ over its handling of the outbreak and risks becoming a ‘pariah state’. People are pictured in the city of Wuhan after lockdown restrictions were relaxed
In another dramatic day:
- The UK death toll soared to 1,019 – up 260 in 24 hours, including the first surgeon to die from Covid-19;
- NHS medical chief Stephen Powis said ‘every one of us has a part to play’ if deaths were to be kept below 20,000;
- As No 10 released pictures of Mr Johnson at work, a poll found Chancellor Rishi Sunak is the voters’ favourite to be interim Prime Minister if Mr Johnson cannot perform his duties;
- Tracking by this newspaper suggested the virus sweeping Whitehall may have originated with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier;
- The first images emerged from inside London’s ExCel Centre as it is being transformed into a 4,000-bed makeshift hospital;
- Deaths across Europe exceeded 20,000, with Italy suffering 10,023 fatalities and Spain seeing its biggest daily rise of 889 to reach 5,690;
- Global infections hit 600,000;
- Ministers were considering using the RAF to airlift Britons stranded abroad after Opposition pressure;
- A front line NHS doctor gave a harrowing account to this newspaper about how medics are having to ‘play God’ due to equipment shortages;
- Amid fear of more domestic abuse cases, Home Secretary Priti Patel warned culprits they would be ‘brought to justice’;
- Police risked fresh claims of snooping by tracking motorists’ cars to check how far they have travelled;
- Panic buyers provoked anger by throwing away excess food – some of it unopened;
- US President Donald Trump suggested he may try to put New York in quarantine;
- Wuhan, the Chinese epicentre of the crisis, partially reopened after more than two months in isolation;
The latest British victims of the epidemic to be named include the first surgeon to die from the virus.
Transplant consultant Dr Adil El Tayar, 63, who died on Wednesday, is thought to have become infected while was working at a hospital in the Midlands.
His cousin, the BBC presenter Zeinab Badawi, said: ‘Adil was a stoic and an optimist and thought he would soon recover. This virus is unforgiving, indiscriminate and it can be brutal.’
Azam Khan, 95, a four-time British squash champion, was also named among the latest victims, alongside amateur DJ Danny Sharma, 38, from London, retired telecoms engineer Pat Bewley, 79, from Suffolk, and taxi driver Spencer Kurash, 57, from Chigwell, Essex.
In his letter, which will land on doormats from Tuesday, Mr Johnson says he understands the disruption caused by the lockdown, but describes it as ‘absolutely necessary’, adding: ‘The more we all follow the rules, the fewer lives will be lost.’ And he says that it is with ‘great British spirit that we will beat coronavirus’.
Meanwhile, Business Secretary Alok Sharma announced yesterday that insolvency rules would be changed to allow firms greater flexibility as they dealt with the crisis.
He also unveiled measures to boost the supply of personal protective equipment, such as face masks and aprons, to front line NHS staff, and to allow new hand sanitisers to be available ‘in a matter of days’.
Following disputed reports that the death toll might be lower than feared, NHS medical director Stephen Powis urged people to stay locked down to defeat the virus, adding ‘now is not the time to be complacent… I cannot emphasise enough to everybody today – you have the chance to save a life.’
As the fight against coronavirus continued, there was growing resentment towards the Chinese in No 10.
One senior Government source said: ‘Of course, the only priority now is to deal with the crisis, but everybody knows that there has to be a reckoning when all this is over.’
Writing for The Mail on Sunday, former Tory Party leader Iain Duncan Smith says: ‘For too long, nations have lamely kow-towed to China in the desperate hope of wining trade deals. But once we get clear of this terrible pandemic, it is imperative that we all rethink that relationship and put it on a much more balanced and honest basis.’
The Prime Minister, who now faces Cabinet calls to reverse his decision to let controversial Chinese firm Huawei build large parts of Britain’s new 5G telecoms network, today warns that the epidemic is likely to worsen in the coming weeks – but that he expects the British ‘spirit’ to overcome the crisis. He is pictured addressing a Cabinet meeting via video link after testing positive for the virus
Will they ever learn? Chinese markets are still selling bats and slaughtering rabbits on blood-soaked floors as Beijing celebrates ‘victory’ over the coronavirus
By George Knowles For The Mail On Sunday
Terrified dogs and cats crammed into rusty cages. Bats and scorpions offered for sale as traditional medicine. Rabbits and ducks slaughtered and skinned side by side on a stone floor covered with blood, filth, and animal remains.
Those were the deeply troubling scenes yesterday as China celebrated its ‘victory’ over the coronavirus by reopening squalid meat markets of the type that started the pandemic three months ago, with no apparent attempt to raise hygiene standards to prevent a future outbreak.
As the pandemic that began in Wuhan forced countries worldwide to go into lockdown, a Mail on Sunday correspondent yesterday watched as thousands of customers flocked to a sprawling indoor market in Guilin, south-west China.
Cats waiting to be slaughtered for their meat in a market in Guilin, Southwest China
Here cages of different species were piled on top of each other. In another meat market in Dongguan, southern China, another correspondent photographed a medicine seller returning to business on Thursday with a billboard advertising bats – thought to be the cause of the initial Wuhan outbreak – along with scorpions and other creatures.
The shocking scenes came as China finally lifted a weekslong nationwide lockdown and encouraged people to go back to normal daily life to boost the flagging economy. Official statistics indicated there were virtually no new infections.
The market in Guilin was packed with shoppers yesterday, with fresh dog and cat meat on offer, a traditional ‘warming’ winter dish.
A traditional medicine stall at Dongguan market in southern China advertising bats and other wild animals as legitimate remedies for common ailments
‘Everyone here believes the outbreak is over and there’s nothing to worry about any more. It’s just a foreign problem now as far as they are concerned,’ said one of the China-based correspondents who captured these images for The Mail on Sunday.
The correspondent who visited Dongguan said: ‘The markets have gone back to operating in exactly the same way as they did before coronavirus.
‘The only difference is that security guards try to stop anyone taking pictures which would never have happened before.’
The first coronavirus cases were traced to a market in Wuhan but the outbreak was kept silent by officials for weeks and whistleblowers were silenced, including 33-yearold Dr Li Wenliang, who later died of coronavirus.
Dogs and rabbits are butchered and sold at a meat market in Guilin, southwest China, on Saturday, 28 March 2020 despite infection concerns about this type of market
Now, after a dramatic fall in infection rates within China, the Beijing government is promoting conspiracy theories that the outbreak did not begin in China at all.
A discredited story, shared widely on China’s Weibo social media platform, claims coronavirus was first detected in Italy in November.
Meanwhile, Chinese officials have promoted groundless conspiracy theories that the US Army brought the virus to its shores.
The only Chinese city still under lockdown yesterday was Wuhan, but yesterday even the restrictions there began to be lifted, with high-speed trains allowed to operate.
China’s efforts to blame coronavirus on a US army delegation to Wuhan infuriate No. 10 as Boris Johnson’s advisers say Beijing’s statistics on its cases could be downplayed by a factor of 40
- Ministers demand review of Britain’s relationship with Communist super-state
- It comes amid fury over China’s misinformation blitz around Covid-19 outbreak
- PM urged to block deal with technology giant Huawei to build UK’s 5G network
China’s behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic will eventually result in a ‘reckoning’ in relations with Beijing, close allies of Boris Johnson have warned.
Senior Ministers think China risks becoming a pariah state unless there are sweeping reforms when the crisis abates, and they are demanding an urgent review of Britain’s relationship with the Communist super-state.
It comes as the Prime Minister faces renewed Cabinet pressure to block the deal with the Chinese technology giant Huawei to build vast swathes of Britain’s 5G network.
There is fury at the top of government about the Chinese Communist Party’s misinformation blitz around the virus, restrictions on vast amounts of protective medical equipment being exported, and animal rights abuses blamed by experts for the outbreak.
There is particular irritation in Downing Street about attempts to falsely blame a US Army delegation to the city of Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicentre, for causing the crisis.
A source said: ‘There is a disgusting disinformation campaign going on and it is unacceptable. They [the Chinese government] know they have got this badly wrong and rather than owning it they are spreading lies.’
Mr Johnson has been warned by scientific advisers that China’s officially declared statistics on the number of cases of coronavirus could be ‘downplayed by a factor of 15 to 40 times’. And No 10 believes China is seeking to build its economic power during the pandemic with ‘predatory offers of help’ countries around the world.
A major review of British foreign policy has been shelved due to the Covid-19 outbreak and will not report until the impact of the virus can be assessed. A Government source close to the review said: ‘It is going to be back to the diplomatic drawing board after this. Rethink is an understatement.’
Another source said: ‘There has to be a reckoning when this is over.’ Yet another added: ‘The anger goes right to the top.’
The Prime Minister faces renewed Cabinet pressure to block the deal with the Chinese technology giant Huawei, pictured, to build vast swathes of Britain’s 5G network
Such concerns are today echoed by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith. Writing in this newspaper, he says: ‘Once we get clear of this terrible pandemic, it is imperative that we all rethink that relationship and put it on a much more balanced and honest basis.’
Critics of Mr Johnson’s decision to allow Huawei limited involvement in 5G are mobilising to press him to reverse the plan.
A senior Cabinet Minister said: ‘We can’t stand by and allow the Chinese state’s desire for secrecy to ruin the world’s economy and then come back like nothing has happened. We’re allowing companies like Huawei not just into our economy, but to be a crucial part of our infrastructure.
‘This needs to be reviewed urgently, as does any strategically important infrastructure that relies on Chinese supply chains.’ Mr Johnson is resisting changing tack as he vowed in last year’s manifesto to roll out superfast broadband for the whole country – and that will be hard to achieve on time without Huawei.
Separately, there is growing pressure for Britain to lead the way in urging China to reform its record on animal rights.
A senior Minister said: ‘We have always known their wildlife markets are a recipe for a pandemic. China needs to close these down immediately. If they don’t, they will rightly become a pariah state.’
Ministers are calling on Boris Johnson, pictued, to launch an urgent review of Britain’s relationship with the Communist super-state
China also contributed to the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) desperately needed by Britain’s doctors, nurses and other health professionals. At the height of the epidemic in Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province, Chinese leaders commandeered vast amounts of PPE, made in factories across China and destined for export.
UK safety equipment firm JSP had its two factories in China ‘requisitioned by the government to make disposable RPE [respiratory protection equipment] for Chinese government agencies’, according to a letter its chief executive Mark Johnstone sent to customers on February 3.
In addition, Chinese state-backed operatives working abroad were directed to bulk-buy medical supplies from Western countries.
Overseas offices of Greenland Group, a property firm backed by the Chinese government, bought three million masks, 700,000 hazmat suits and 500,000 pairs of gloves as it ‘felt compelled… to assist in efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus, which had caused a shortage of crucial medical supplies in China,’ according to a company newsletter seen by the Sydney Morning Herald.
Ironically – and for critics, cynically – China has now started to donate masks and other equipment to other countries. Bank of China has sent 200,000 PPE items to Ireland and Chinese tycoon Jack Ma has given test kit, masks and other supplies to 54 African nations.
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat said: ‘Beijing is masking the greatest health emergency in a century and the cost of this deceit is global.’