Boris Johnson admits Eat Out to Help Out scheme might have helped fuel spike in coronavirus cases but says it was crucial to save ‘hundreds of thousands of jobs’
- Boris Johnson admitted the Eat Out to Help Out scheme might have fueled cases
- PM insisted popular subsidy was essential to save hundreds of thousands of jobs
- Mr Johnson said government must ‘strike balance’ between economy and curbs
Boris Johnson today admitted that the government’s flagship Eat Out to Help Out scheme might have fueled the spike in coronavirus cases.
The PM was repeatedly challenged over whether the government had contributed to the recent rise in infections by encouraging people to dine out and return to offices.
But Mr Johnson insisted the subsidy had been crucial to save ‘hundreds of thousands’ of jobs, and stressed that ministers had to strike a ‘balance’ between saving the economy and protecting public health.
The comments came as the premier was interviewed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show at the start of Tory Party conference – which is being held virtually amid the pandemic.
Marr told Mr Johnson that policies such as the Eat Out scheme – which subsidised millions of half-price meals at restaurants in August – appeared to have added to the flare-up since the start of September.
The PM was repeatedly challenged by the BBC’s Andrew Marr today (pictured) over whether the government had contributed to the recent rise in infections by encouraging people to dine out and return to offices
Marr told Mr Johnson that policies such as the Eat Out scheme – which subsidised millions of half-price meals at restaurants in August – appeared to have added to the flare-up since the start of September
The PM said the government was trying to ‘strike a balance’.
‘I think it was right to reopen the economy. I think if we hadn’t done that Andrew, if we hadn’t got things moving again in the summer, I mean we would be looking at many more hundreds of thousands of jobs lost,’ Mr Johnson said.
Pressed again, Mr Johnson said: ‘I also think, I also think that it is important now, irrespective of whether Eat Out To Help Out you know, what the balance of there was, it unquestionably helped to protect many… there are two million jobs at least in the hospitality sector.
‘It was very important to keep those jobs going. Now, if it, insofar as that scheme may have helped to spread the virus, then obviously we need to counteract that and we need to counteract that with the discipline and the measures that we’re proposing.
‘I hope you understand the balance we’re trying to strike.’
Mr Johnson admitted people were ‘furious’ with him over the 10pm pubs curfew, the Rule of Six, and chaotic local curbs, but defended his handling of the crisis amid growing disquiet on his own benches.
He urged the public to be ‘fearless but use common sense’ to help manage the outbreak without destroying the economy.
Mr Johnson said he was working ‘flat out’ and hoped that ‘in the course of the next few weeks and months the scientific equation will change’ and that would allow a ‘different approach’.
But in an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, he cautioned that the restrictions could drag into 2021.
‘I know people are furious, and they are furious with me and furious with the government.,’ Mr Johnson said.
‘But, you know, I’ve got to tell you in all candour, it’s going to continue to be bumpy through to Christmas, it may even be bumpy beyond. But this is the only way to do it.
He added: ‘This could be a very tough winter for all of us.’