No 'substantial evidence' Eat Out to Help Out led to a rise in Covid numbers, claims Boris Johnson

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Boris Johnson defends Eat Out to Help Out scheme in Covid inquiry

Related tags Eat Out To Help Out Restaurant lockdown Coronavirus

Boris Johnson has defended the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme that was launched during the Covid pandemic, insisting there was no ‘substantial evidence’ that it led to a rise in cases of Coronavirus.

Speaking on the second day of the Covid inquiry, the former Prime Minister insisted the scheme, which was designed to lure diners back into restaurants, was not a gamble and that it wasn’t considered to be something that would compound the epidemic.

Eat Out to Help Out​ was launched by the Government in August 2020 to give support the hospitality sector. Restaurants, bars and cafes that sign up to the scheme will be able to offer a 50% reduction, up to a maximum value of £10 per person, to all dine in customers on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August.

The scheme led to an increase in people visiting restaurants​ earlier on in the week, with diners spending 34.2% more at restaurants on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August than they did in July as a result.

Johnson was told during the enquiry that chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty had said in general terms that the proposed easing of restrictions in relation to indoor hospitality was at the top end of the risk boundary. “You knew there was an element of risk in this,” he was told.

Responding to this, he replied: “I don’t think I though that that particular scheme in itself was a gamble at the time. It certainly wasn’t presented to me as such.”

“Nor am I confident that there is very substantial evidence that it did indeed add to the R [number].

“I cant see anything that conclusively shows that it made a big difference. At the rime it wasn’t presented to me as something that would.”

The Covid inquiry continues.

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