RISHI Sunak has rejected accusations his bumper Eat Out to Help Out scheme caused a spike in coronavirus infections.
The Chancellor faced criticism today as he unveiled a new package of economic measures to help keep people in work as restrictions caused “fear and anxiety” for many businesses.
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In a Downing Street briefing, Mr Sunak said it “too simplistic” to claim the discount meal deal, which gave Brits 50 per cent of their meal off, up to £10 per person, on Monday to Wednesdays in August.
The Exchequer picked up part of the bill for roughly 100 million meals
When asked about whether the discount had caused a spike in cases as people packed into restaurants, Mr Sunak said: “In terms of the spread of the virus, if you see what’s happening in our country, we are following similar paths to others in Europe.
“I think it’s probably simplistic to look at any one thing. What’s happening here is what’s similar to what’s happening in many other countries.
“There are lots of things going on at the same time, towards the last few weeks and as we get into a season for respiratory illnesses, so there’s going to be lots of different factors at play.
The Chancellor launched a cautious defence of people who had forgotten about social distancing during the summer, saying: “I don’t think it’s the wrong thing for the Government or indeed people to want to try and get their lives back to normal.
“I said in the summer, that we would have to learn to live with the uncertainty of the moment.
“We all want to live life as normally as possible. I think it’s right that. we strive for normalcy, but right to recognise there will be limits on that and adjust that as necessary.”
The Chancellor announced today:
The Chancellor also announced:
- A new six-month furlough replacement scheme to try and save thousands of jobs – with the Government paying a chunk of lost wages.
- A VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism industry will continue March next year – meaning cheaper meals out will continue
- The coronavirus emergency loans for businesses would be extended until the end of the year – and loans can be repaid over ten years in a new ‘Pay as you Grow’ scheme
- Businesses who are struggling to pay back their loans can make interest-only payments
- Self-employment grants will be extended
- Firms can spread their VAT bill over 11 smaller payments to make it easier for them to cough up the cash owed – and no interest
- People making self-assessment claims can extend their tax bills for another year
Scientists have levied criticism at him for encouraging Brits to get out and back into restaurants at a time when social distancing was still critical.
And people who ignored social distancing measures are now being blamed for the surge in cases.
As cases started to rise again earlier this month, scientists and experts levied criticism at the Chancellor’s scheme for encouraging the jump.
Professor Heneghan, who is the Director of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, warned there was a sharp increase of cases right after the bank holiday weekend at the end of Rishi Sunak’s meal deal.
Professor Heneghan said: “What we saw was, in the detectable cases, on September 2 was an increase in that number (of new infections).
“You go back to August 30, you had about 1,000 detected cases and that then went up to 2,600.
“It’s interesting to note that was right around the bank holiday, and the Monday we we had Rishi’s Eat Out (scheme).
“That was a huge success but that actually led, potentially, to some sense of increase in cases.”