Who could have seen this coming?
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme caused a “significant” rise in COVID-19 infections, new research suggests.
Research conducted by the University of Warwick shows that a sharp increase of infection clusters emerged just a week after the campaign began.
Eat Out to Help Out was championed by chancellor Rishi Sunak as a financial incentive for people to return to bars and restaurants as a way of kickstarting the economy by subsidising meals by 50 per cent between Mondays and Wednesdays.
New research shows that between 8% and 17% of newly detected infection clusters could be linked to the scheme.
Links between the scheme and a rise in cases are strengthened by data showing that the areas that suffered a high increase in infections also saw them go down the week after the scheme came to an end.
Weather was also a factor, with areas experiencing more rain around lunch and dinner time seeing a lower rise in infections than those areas that were blessed with sunnier weather.
Of course, the economic benefits of the campaign were obvious to see – restaurants saw an increase of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent in guests compared to the same time in 2019 but those benefits were shortlived.
Dr Thiemo Fetzer said the scheme was a contributory factor to the second wave of coronavirus in the United Kingdom.
“The UK saw a massive explosion of cases in a way that was not seen in other countries,” he told Sky News.
“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.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson has previously admitted the scheme may have played a part in the rise in cases across the nation.
“Insofar as that scheme may have helped to spread the virus then obviously we need to counteract that with the discipline and the measures that we’re proposing,” he told the BBC.