Rishi Sunak does not 'regret' eat out scheme which could have spread infections
- Credit: PA
The chancellor has said he has "no regrets" over the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, despite reports it could have spread coronavirus infections.
Rishi Sunak was dubbed Dishi Rishi after unveiling his August scheme of subsidised meals out to help a pub and restaurant sector badly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Treasury figures show more than 100 million meals were eaten under the scheme, which gave diners a 50% state-backed discount, up to a maximum of £10, on meals every Monday to Wednesday.
On The Andrew Marr Show the prime minister said the Treasury incentive “may have helped to spread the virus” and that its impact needed to be counteracted, with the country facing a second surge in positive Covid-19 cases.
But Sunak, in comments made to The Sun before day three of the party conference, said the success of the initiative had helped prop-up two million jobs and that he had no regrets about paying for it.
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“No, definitely not,” Sunak is reported to have said when asked if he held any regrets.
“We had an industry that I care deeply about because of employment.
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“It’s over two million people.”
According to the report, the former local government minister pointed to the low rate of second-wave Covid infections in the South West, a region he claimed made the most use of the scheme, as evidence that the hospitality drive had not had an adverse health effect.
The non-drinker also expressed sympathy over public anger at the 10pm pub curfew brought in as an attempt to curb infections.
“Everyone is very frustrated and exhausted and tired about all of this,” he told the paper.
But Sunak – who praised Johnson’s leadership during the pandemic – sent a warning about any future move that would see the economy shut down again.