Chancellor defends Eat Out to Help Out scheme

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Curfew is 'frustrating': Rishi Sunak said it was a good thing hospitality had avoided another national shutdown but agreed restrictions were difficult
Curfew is 'frustrating': Rishi Sunak said it was a good thing hospitality had avoided another national shutdown but agreed restrictions were difficult

Related tags: Coronavirus, Legislation, Eat Out To Help Out, Food, Health and safety

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has defended his summer discount meals initiative after suggestions it played a part in the second coronavirus spike.

The Chancellor was interviewed by The Sun​ newspaper​ and described the latest series of restrictions on the hospitality sector as “frustrating”.

It has been suggested the Eat Out to Help Out scheme triggered a rise in Covid-19 infection rates after Brits were encouraged to support their local pubs and restaurants at a 50% discount.

The hospitality sector saw just 5.18% of cases recorded by Public Health England (PHE) data from the week pubs opened (commencing 9 July – week 28), The Morning Advertiser​ reported.

Asked if he had any regrets about the meals scheme, Sunak responded: “No, no, no, no, definitely not. We had an industry that I care deeply about because of employment. It’s over 2m people.”

Strive for normality

He added: “I don’t think it’s wrong for people to want to strive for normality and I don’t think it’s wrong for the Government to want that for people.”

His words come as many in the pub sector feel as though they have been scapegoated by ministers and unfairly subjected to strict restrictions just as they were feeling stronger.

Sunak said lockdowns “obviously have a very strong economic impact, but they have an impact on many other things”.

He told the newspaper: “We have to look at this all in the round and beating coronavirus is important and minimising the harm that it causes is important.

He said he was glad hospitality had remained open despite severe restrictions and times of speculation pubs could be imminently closed to limit the virus spread.

Curfew frustrating

On the issue of the 10pm curfew, he said: “Of course it’s frustrating. I know it’s difficult and wish we didn’t have to do these things.”

Ministers had discussed the issue and “the advice of our scientists was that this would make a difference and there we go,” he said.

“It’s one of the measures that we put in place but, you know what, we haven’t closed anything down and that is a good thing.

“Is it frustrating, right? Everyone is very frustrated and exhausted and tired about all of this.

 “No one likes doing these things, these are not fun things.

“You know we’re doing them to try and nip this in the bud before it becomes a bigger problem later.”

Businesses have said the Chancellor's Jobs Support Scheme has offered them little comfort as the winter approaches.

Related topics: Legislation

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