The “Eat out to help out” offer contributed to the second...

The “Eat out to help out” offer contributed to the second...
The “Eat out to help out” offer contributed to the second...

LONDON (Reuters) – According to a new study, the UK government’s “Eat out to help out” rebate program to increase spending in restaurants, cafes and pubs in summer contributed to the spread of the coronavirus and contributed to a second wave of infections.

FILE PHOTO: British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, wearing a face mask, affixes a sticker as he meets with local business people during a visit to Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute, Scotland, UK on Aug 7, 2020. Jeff J Mitchell / Pool via REUTERS

For the month of August, the government offered guests a 50% discount of up to £ 10 ($ 13.03) per capita on meals between Monday and Wednesday to help boost the economy and encourage people to make money again after the pandemic to spend.

According to a study by the University of Warwick, between 8% and 17% of the newly discovered infection clusters could be associated with the system during this period. In areas where the program was heavily used, new infections increased about a week after the program started, the study said.

Meanwhile, the investigation found that in the same areas, new infections per week decreased after the discount offer was closed.

The UK Treasury Department said it did not recognize the study’s findings.

“Many other European colleagues have seen an increase in some cases – regardless of whether similar measures have been introduced for the hotel industry,” said a spokesman for the finance ministry.

Thiemo Fetzer, professor of economics who published the study, said, “The Eat-Out-to-Help-Out program, touted as an economic cure for the sick sector, may have made the disease significantly worse.”

The study highlights the difficult challenge of balancing public health and economic growth during this crisis. The government subsidized about 100 million meals in August, and the program was so effective that some companies continued to offer half-price discounts even after government funding ended.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this month defended the program to protect millions of jobs in the hospitality industry, but admitted it may have had an impact on infection.

($ 1 = 0.7673 pounds)

Reporting by Andrew MacAskill, Editing by William Maclean

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