Rishi Sunak Defends Not Asking Scientists If Eat Out To Help Out Would Spread Covid

The prime minister said the policy helped avoid "devastating consequences" for the hospitality industry.
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Rishi Sunak has defended not consulting government scientists before launching Eat Out To Help Out (EOHO) while serving as chancellor during the pandemic.

Giving evidence to the the Covid inquiry on Monday, he said the scheme helped avoid “devastating consequences” for millions of workers.

Designed to help the hospitality sector recover from the economic impact of lockdown, the Treasury covered the cost of 50% of restaurant bills in August 2020.

But it has been revealed Sunak did not ask chief medical officer Chris Whitty or chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance if it risked increasing the spread of Covid.

Matt Hancock, who was health secretary, also told the inquiry he only found out about the scheme on the morning it was announced to the public.

Sunak told the inquiry there was no need to consult scientists or Hancock because the government had already agreed it was then safe to allow people to mix in restaurants and pubs.

“This was a micro-policy to make sure that capacity - which scientists had already said was part of an overall package that could be safely delivered - was actually used,” he said.

“We had already made the collective decision to reopen indoor hospitality and this was policy that sat within and beneath that.”

The prime minister added: “My primary concern was protecting millions of jobs or particularly vulnerable people who work in this industry.

“Unless we did something many of those jobs would have been at risk, with devastating consequences for those people and their families.”

The inquiry has heard how Whitty described the scheme as “eat out to help the virus”, while Angela McLean, who is now chief scientific adviser, referred to Sunak as “Dr Death the chancellor”.

Sunak also told the inquiry on Monday he was “deeply sorry” for all those impacted by the pandemic.


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