Robert Peston tweeted a link to his Spectator article on Tuesday, which was titled: "Has the furlough scheme removed the incentive to work?" He was ostensibly frustrated at the idea that people are being "paid to do nothing at home."
Under the UK government scheme, non-essential workers furloughed during the Covid-19 pandemic are being paid 80 percent of their monthly wages up to £2,500 ($3,150), with an option for their employers to make up the 20 percent shortfall.
Peston's provocative piece sparked a backlash online with many suggesting that the whole point of such an initiative is to remove the need for people to go to work, so as to safeguard their health and that of the wider public throughout the Covid-19 pandemic currently wreaking havoc across the nation.
One person angrily tweeted: "THAT'S THE BLOODY POINT." Others jokingly asked whether they could remove Peston's incentive to work as a journalist. GIFs and memes were also posted taking a pop at the 59-year-old's views.
The journalist – who hosts his own politics show on ITV – suggested that the UK government should instead be giving every worker a universal basic income (UBI) to provide an incentive to work, as each person would be "obliged to repay all of it through the tax system."
UK Foreign Secretary Dominc Raab – who is currently standing in for PM Boris Johnson while he recuperates from coronavirus – has said restrictions to slow the spread of the disease in Britain will remain in place until at least May 7.
It comes as new ONS figures show the Covid-19 death toll in England and Wales rising dramatically, with one in every five fatalities there now linked to the coronavirus.
The new data prompted accusations that the UK government has been underreporting fatalities in its daily numbers by omitting deaths in care homes and focusing on hospital deaths only.
Figures published by the Department for Health and Social Care on Tuesday showed that 93,873 people in the UK had tested positive for the coronavirus in hospital since the start of the outbreak. Of these, 12,107 died – 778 in the last 24-hour period.
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