The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has had a “large causal impact in accelerating” second wave COVID-19 infections, a Warwick University study has suggested.
According to the research, the “significant” rise in coronavirus infection clusters emerged a week after the scheme started.
It also suggests that between 8% and 17% of newly detected COVID-19 clusters could be linked to the scheme during that time period.
Regions where there was a high uptake of Eat Out to Help Out also saw a decline in new infections a week after the scheme drew to a close.
There were lower infection rates in places that experienced high rainfall around lunch and dinner-time than in areas that enjoyed nicer weather.
While restaurants that participated in the scheme saw an increase in visits of between 10% and 200% compared with the same period in 2019.
Academics concluded that the economic benefits of Eat Out to Help Out were short lived.
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The month-long scheme was launched as part of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Plan for Jobs to kickstart the UK economy after the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to close during lockdowns. The government offered to cover up to 50% from customers’ bills, with firms able to reclaim the government’s payment through a HMRC portal.
Around 84,000 restaurants have signed up to the scheme, which offers a maximum discount of £10 ($14) per customer on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout August.
Brits enjoyed more than 64 million meals, in the programme’s first three weeks, according to government data.
Yahoo Finance has reached out to the Treasury for comment.
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