UK may have paid out billions in error in coronavirus support scheme: Official

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The British government may have paid out billions of pounds in erroneous or fraudulent applications for its ongoing wages support scheme, aimed at safeguarding jobs in the coronavirus pandemic, a top official has revealed.

The top civil servant at Britain’s tax department, Jim Harra, told a parliamentary committee on Monday that between five and 10 percent of cash used for the government’s furlough scheme - equivalent to £3.5 billion ($4.5 billion, 3.7 billion euros) - might have ended up in the wrong hands.

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The government has paid out £35.4 billion to finance the bulk of wages for around 10 million workers placed on furlough under a scheme set to end next month.

The amount wrongly paid out “will range from deliberate fraud through to error,” Harra told the panel.

On Sunday, Britain recorded its highest daily number of new coronavirus cases since May, with 2,988 new infections announced.

Like other European countries, the UK is seeing the number of infections rise as society reopens after lockdown.

Some of the increase can be accounted for by expanded testing, which is identifying people who have mild or no symptoms.

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