MINISTERS paid out £63,000 to Love Island stars to plug NHS Test and Trace – only for some to jet off on holiday.
Chris Hughes, Shaughna Phillips and Josh Denzel were given taxpayer cash to tell Instagram followers testing is “free, quick and vital to stop the spread”.
Shaughna Phillips posted about the NHS trace and trace app
Figures released by the Cabinet Office following a Freedom of Information request by Full Fact show that, on average, each influencer was awarded £1,500 for the advertising campaign.
The payments are likely to depend on the size of each social media star’s following.
While ITV2 star Shaughna, 26, and TV presenter Denzel, 29, have a combined Instagram following of 2.7 million, other influencers who received cash had as few as 9,000 followers.
The posters were told to heap praise on the NHS but warned: “Don’t criticise the Government or its guidance.”
Influencers used the hashtags #letsgetback and #gettested for posts in which they shared “nights out” with mates pre-pandemic.
Full Fact discovered messages from 11 social media posters which appeared to be part of the government’s campaign.
The Cabinet Office told Full Fact: “As part of the wider communications strategy for raising essential awareness of the NHS Test and Trace service and the importance of testing for Covid-19, we have been working with key micro and macro influencers to reach young adults in a channel they regularly engage with, as we also use traditional marketing and advertorials to reach adults via print, radio and TV advertising.”
Full Fact said that other posts that were part of the campaign may have been removed.
Chris Hughes also posted to his followers about the app
Chris told his 2.1million followers last July how “getting tested for coronavirus is the best way for us all to get back to doing the things we love”.
He also posted a picture of himself in the pub with pals before the pandemic, saying: “I miss times like these! Getting tested is the best way for us all to get back to doing the things we love.
“We all play a crucial part in helping normalise this behaviour.
“I was worried I might have mild symptoms so I tested to be sure. It was so, so simple!”
The posts came before he was snapped partying in Mykonos, which saw a surge in Covid-19 cases over the summer.
He was also branded “hypocritical” for posting the ad after he was pictured on a yacht in Ibiza with fellow Love Islander Anton Danyluk.
Shaughna, 26, posted an ad to her 1.5million followers on August 17, 2020 – weeks after she was pictured on a group night out in Marbella.
She said: “Guys I want to remind you about the importance of coronavirus testing and that it’s totally free, quick and is vital to stop the spread of coronavirus.”
Josh also posted about the app
While Josh told his 1.2million followers to get tested to “get back to the good times”.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, blasted: “Z-list celebrities should not be paid to push messages which plenty of people have been doing free of charge.
“If these influencers want to help with the Covid campaign, they should promote the message for free.”
Shaughna posted a group shot from MarbellaCredit: Instagram