Boris Johnson’s allies have been accused of ‘Trump-style’ tactics to blame China for government failures over the coronavirus.
Michael Gove appeared to apportion some blame to Beijing for the UK’s lack of mass testing, claiming some of the signals coming out of China were not clear about ‘the scale, the nature, the infectiousness’ of the disease when he was questioned about testing.
He told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: ‘We’ve been increasing the number of tests over the course of the last month.
‘It was the case, you’re absolutely right, that the first case of coronavirus in China was established in December last year but it was also the case that some of the reporting from China was not clear about the scale, the nature, the infectiousness of it.
‘We’ve always followed the scientific advice… at every stage our scientists have been looking at the emerging evidence and then making recommendations to the Government on how to react.’
Former Tory party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith accused China of a ‘cover up’ since the virus emerged there, while the Mail on Sunday quoted a senior government source saying a ‘reckoning’ will follow the crisis.
And the paper quoted a cabinet minister as saying: ‘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.’
Sir Iain, who has led a rebellion against the prime minister after he allowed Chinese firm Huawei into the 5G network, said the UK must rethink its relationship with the nation in a highly-critical article.
‘As a result of Beijing’s cover-up and delay, global health experts are convinced the rest of the world had insufficient time to prepare for the pandemic, which means the effect of the outbreak has most likely been worse,’ he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.
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‘For too long, nations have lamely kow-towed to China in the desperate hope of winning 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 government was accused of a ‘Trump-style’ attempt to deflect blame for the UK’s failures on to China.
‘This is a Trump-style attempt to divert blame from the UK government’s failures,’ tweeted Labour deputy leadership contender Richard Burgon. ‘A World Health Organization report says China ‘rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile & aggressive disease containment effort in history’. We haven’t even sorted out enough tests for NHS staff’.
‘For a man who says that criticism of UK approach to coronavirus should wait until after pandemic has passed, Gove is quick to throw the blame at China over lack of UK coronavirus testing’, tweeted Hope Not Hate’s Nick Lowles.
Downing Street declined to comment on the accusations.
It comes as the Mail on Sunday also accused the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier for bringing the virus into Downing Street.