Chancellor Rishi Sunak has defended encouraging people back to pubs and restaurants over the summer, prior to the government being forced to take fresh action to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Mr Sunak’s “Eat Out To Help Out” scheme handed Britons discounted meals during August, as ministers attempted to restart the economy after the UK’s lockdown.
Pubs, bars and restaurants – along with the rest of the hospitality industry – have since been handed a 10pm curfew as the government attempts to deal with a second wave of COVID-19 infections.
But, speaking to Sky News, the chancellor played down a possible link between his scheme and the growing rise in cases across the country.
“More broadly, if you think of the spread of the virus this time around, what’s happening here is pretty much in sync with what’s happening around the world in second waves,” he said.
“Whether it’s France or Spain, where very specifically our scientists said we were following exactly the same curve.
“So, actually, this seems to be more a feature just of the virus and the season than anything specific.”
Mr Sunak highlighted how the South West had seen the greatest use of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, in proportion to the size of the local population, and was now a region with some of the lowest incidences of COVID-19 “anywhere in the country”.