New study suggests UK Government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme increased coronavirus infection rates
pharmafile | October 30, 2020 | News story | Medical Communications |
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme contributed to a significant rise in new coronavirus cases according to a study from the University of Warwick.
The scheme was a push by the UK Government to help prop up the restaurant industry through subsidising meals between Monday and Wednesday throughout August. It saw the government pay up to £10 per person on restaurant bills. Restaurants who participated in the scheme saw an increase in visits of between 10% and 200% compared with the same period in 2019; however, researchers have concluded that the economic benefits of the scheme were not substantial.
The study suggested that between 8% to 17% of newly detected infection clusters could be linked to the scheme. In regions, where the scheme was used the most, infections declined after the scheme ended. According to the study, places with warmer weather had higher infection rates.
Dr Thiemo Fetzer, who worked on the study, told Sky News: “The UK saw a massive explosion of cases in a way that was not seen in other countries. It’s that scheme that has helped to bring about an earlier second lockdown and restrictions on the restaurant sector that it was determined to help economically.
“The Eat Out to Help Out scheme was part of a general package of policy and communications over the summer that encouraged people to go out and adopt a ‘back to normal’ mindset. That creates this whiplash when one month you’re being told ‘get out there, have confidence, go back to business, back to normal’ – and in the next month there’s a new tier scheme being put in place.”
The government responded to the study, with a Treasury spokesperson saying: “We do not recognise these figures – which as the study itself admits, are ‘back-of-the-envelope’ calculations. Many other European counterparts have experienced an uptick in cases – irrespective of whether similar measures for the hospitality industry have been introduced. We’re continuing to work closely with businesses to help them be COVID-secure.”