Eat Out To Help Out Scheme ‘Increased Coronavirus Infections By Up To 17%’

Sara C Nelson
·2 min read

The Eat Out To Help Out scheme, which saw individuals and families encouraged to eat out at discounted rates following the national lockdown, caused a “significant” increase in Covid-19 cases, a study has claimed.

The Warwick University research suggests that the scheme may be responsible for between 8 and 17% of all new detected clusters of coronavirus emerging during August and into early September in the UK.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled the scheme of subsidised meals to help the pub and restaurant sector after it was badly impacted by the pandemic.

The Eat Out To Help Out Scheme gave diners a state-backed 50% discount on meals between Mondays and Wednesdays 
The Eat Out To Help Out Scheme gave diners a state-backed 50% discount on meals between Mondays and Wednesdays

Treasury figures show more than 100m 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.

The paper, entitled “Subsidising the spread of Covid-19: Evidence from the UK’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme”, by Dr Thiemo Fetzer, states: “Given the dramatic rise of Covid-19 infections across the UK in recent weeks, the likely changes in consumer behaviour due to higher infection risks and the ensuing economic damage this generates suggests that the EOHO scheme may have indirect economic and public health costs that vastly outstrip its short-term economic benefits.”

Dr Fetzer has tweeted the study, remarking on the “unintended consequences of a UK policy which makes me cringe at how my tax money is spent”.

In a moment of prescience, earlier this month prime minister Boris Johnson told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show 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...

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