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Downing Street condemns Russian 'disinformation' after reports Boris Johnson is on a ventilator for coronavirus

Number 10 hit out at Russian claims about the PM’s condition.

2 min read

Number 10 has hit out at Russian “disinformation” after a Moscow-backed news agency claimed Boris Johnson has been placed on a ventilator as he recovers from coronavirus.

Downing Street attacked what it called “false and misleading narratives” being peddled about the Prime Minister’s condition after he was admitted to hospital ten days after being diagnosed with the disease.

Mr Johnson had been due to emerge from seven days' self-isolation on Friday, but remained behind closed doors because he continued to have a high temperature.

Russia’s official news agency RIA Novosti on Sunday reported that the Prime Minister had been put on a ventilator and was now in intensive care. The agency claimed its source was “close to the leadership of the national health system” in the UK.

But a Number 10 spokesperson pushed back strongly at the claim on Monday, saying: “That is disinformation.”

They added: "Our specialist Government unit has seen a rise in false and misleading narratives since the coronavirus pandemic started. It's vital that any disinformation is knocked down quickly.

"DCMS [the Department of Culture, Media and Sport] and the Cabinet Office continue to work closely with social media companies to press for further action to stem the spread of falsehoods and rumours."

And they said of the ventilator claim: "Very clearly we would treat that as disinformation.”

The knock-down of the Russian report comes after MPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee accused states including Russia, China and Iran of “propagating disinformation about the origins and spread of the virus” around the world.

A ‘Rapid Response Unit’ on fake news, run by the Cabinet Office and Downing Street, has already been set up to tackle "harmful narratives" about the outbreak, including a false claim that holding your breath for ten seconds can cure the disease.

Writing for The House Live on Monday, Tory MP Damian Collins said the Governemnt “should make it an offence for people to knowingly, maliciously and at scale spread disinformation about Covid-19 with the intent of harming the public health”. 


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