How could anyone cash in on Covid with sickening 'scams' to grab taxpayers' money

IN the dark days of this pandemic, some shining beacons of hope have emerged.

The kind people who have bought their vulnerable neighbours’ weekly shop, the nurses who have cancelled holidays to keep our hospitals going and the likes of footballer Marcus Rashford (MBE!) who have raised millions for the less fortunate.

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But sadly, as with every crisis, there are those who unashamedly think only of themselves.

Given that since March we have endured job losses and curbs on our freedom, it’s always a bit galling to read about those who appear to have actually benefited from Covid.

I’m not talking about the people whose businesses and skills mean they are providing a service — video conferencing or hand sanitiser firms, for instance — that our Brave New World cannot live without.

It is the people who have been accused of immorally cashing in that I find infuriating.

Consider the allegations against millionaire pizza chain tycoon Raheel Choudhary.

He is accused of “participating” in the Government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme by claiming £235,000 of taxpayers’ cash at three of his stores.

Choudhary, who owns 61 Papa John’s franchise restaurants, is accused of asking staff to record thousands of “phantom covers” (allegedly promising them bonuses to do so). As part of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, the Government would have paid half the bill for each one, up to £10 each.

Most of Choudhary’s restaurants were not even eligible for the offer — which required diners to eat in — because they were takeaway only.

Workers claim they were threatened with the sack or reduced hours if they spoke out, and now Papa John’s has launched an investigation.

While the nation was heading out for a pint and a pizza with their loved ones, thinking they were doing their civic duty, it seems some may have been making up get-rich schemes at the same time.

This is especially sickening because some industries, like our football clubs in Leagues One and Two, have not been entitled to any support — and some may fold as a result. Macclesfield Town, a club founded in 1874, was pushed over the edge when turnstiles were closed at the pandemic’s peak in March.

Its £500,000 debts, partly accrued in that time, mean those turnstiles will never be used by fans again.


While Macclesfield has now been dissolved, many clubs fear their finances will be set back a decade.

So, reading these allegations about a scheme like Eat Out To Help Out, which cost the Treasury £522million, makes me seethe.

Unfortunately, experts have said the suspected scam could be just the “tip of the iceberg”.

Sadly, it seems government coronavirus schemes were open to exploitation by many immoral people who saw it as a way to line their own pockets.

And you can bet your life that as this week Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced another initiative, there will be some out there looking for a another payday.

The expansion of the Job Support Scheme will see the Government pay two thirds of the salaries of workers impacted by new lockdown measures.

It is unfortunately another scheme — set up to help others — that a small minority could see as an opportunity to take advantage of.

So if these allegations are found to be true, we need to make an example of those responsible

They must pay back every penny.

And they must be punished to deter others from exploiting schemes that are put in place to help us all.


YOU have got to love TV presenter Lizzie Cundy for gamely agreeing to appear in her swimsuit on live TV, at the age of 52, to test a waterproof mac in a shower.

To do so, on This Morning this week, was pretty brave. I’m not sure I would ever have had the courage.

But Lizzie looked amazing so who can blame her for taking any chance to show off her body.
If I had a body like that, I’d go to work in my swimsuit.

Good luck to her.


DURING the pandemic it’s been noticeable that Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, is not afraid to make decisions before Prime Minister Boris Johnson, nor ones at odds with his.

Some might say the real nub of the issue is that Sturgeon is going out of her way at every opportunity to highlight the differences between Scotland and England, to build further on her case that Scotland should be independent.

It hasn’t always made her popular.

She described the approach as a “short, sharp action to arrest a worrying increase in infection”, warning that without taking action, the country risks “returning to the peak level of infection by the end of the month”.

She knows full well that closing pubs and curbing alcohol sales elsewhere will make people unhappy and disrupt many businesses.

Since students returned to the cities in Scotland last month, there has been an ominous upward trend of deaths, hospital admissions and ICU cases in Scotland.

But some opinion polls indicate that Sturgeon’s popularity may be on the wane.

New research as part of University College London’s Covid-19 Social Study found that “full confidence” in her is down from a summer peak of 34 per cent to 17 per cent.

This hasn’t been helped by her claims of forgetting about a meeting in which she was informed about sexual misconduct allegations against former First Minister Alex Salmond.

As Scotland’s former Tory leader Ruth Davidson said on Thursday, Sturgeon’s evidence to an inquiry of her role in the handling of the allegations was “beyond belief”.

And if Sturgeon’s desire for independence clouds her judgment about what is right for her country at this time, then her popularity will continue to decline.


I HAVE obviously been as gutted as anyone else that there is no 2020 series of The Apprentice.

But the feedback I have been getting from The Apprentice Best Bits, which is running instead, has been such a happy reminder of all the reasons I love being part of this show.

When someone asked me this week what the best thing about being on it was, my answer was clear: The behind-the-camera stuff.

In particular the friendships I have with Lord Sugar and my fellow adviser Claude Littner, and the fantastic team we work with who make it feel like the best job in the world – and not like work at all.


LOOKING at pictures of actress Rebel Wilson and singer Adele, who have lost more than 10st between them, I feel inspired.

Not so much by how great they look, but how healthy they are.

I think we all have to accept that unless we lock ourselves away and isolate completely, at some point we are likely to get Covid-19.

So the fitter and healthier we are, the better we will cope with the symptoms.

Being obese is an underlying health condition that affects your chances of fighting the virus.

So forget looks – if you need to lose weight, do it for that reason.


MY heart goes out to former Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding, who is battling breast cancer, and her mum Marie, who is caring for her during her treatment.

No one wants to see their daughter suffer from something as scary as cancer.

And no one wants to go through such gruelling treatment.

But it must be such a source of comfort to Marie that she can help her daughter and support her during the toughest of times.

Sending them both all my best wishes.

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