Eating out to help increase coronavirus infections by up to 17%, say researchers

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The UK government’s Eat Out to Help out program has caused Covid-19 infections to rise between 8% and 17%, new research shows.The program aimed to help businesses closed due to the coronavirus crisis by encouraging customers to dine for a 50% discount on food and non-alcoholic drinks.

But the £ 500million scheme caused a significant rise in new infections in August and early September, accelerating the pandemic into its second wave, said Dr Thiemo Fetzer, a researcher at the CAGE research center at the University of Warwick. .

According to the data, participating restaurants saw an increase in visits of 10 to 200% compared to 2019.

Areas with a higher adoption rate – both by restaurants and consumers – saw a sharp increase in new clusters of Covid-19 infection a week after the program started, he said, adding that 8-17% of newly detected clusters can be attributed to it.

Meanwhile, high-use areas saw a drop in new infections a week after the program ended on August 31.

Dr Fetzer said: ‘This strongly suggests that the link between’ Eat Out to Help Out ‘and new Covid-19 infections is causal: when people weren’t eating out as part of the program, there was less new cases of the virus.

“’Eat Out to Help Out’ may have ended up being a bogus economy: an economy that subsidized the spread of the pandemic until the fall and helped start Wave 2.

Do you still think Eat Out to Help Out should have gone ahead? Let us know in the comments below.

Previous research from the University of Oxford has also suggested a “loose correlation” between adoption of the Eat Out to Help Out program and new cases in the last weeks of August.

Researcher Toby Phillips said restaurants saw a dramatic increase in customer numbers on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays compared to the previous year.

However, he said no firm link could be proven, adding: “Again, that doesn’t mean the scheme caused these cases. But he certainly didn’t discourage these people from going out. ”

How many cases are there in you? Find out with your postal code:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously admitted that the program may have contributed to an increase in the number of cases.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show earlier this month, he said: ‘As far as this program may have helped to spread the virus, we obviously need to counter it and we need to counter it with discipline and the measures we propose. You can read more here.

However, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, asked if he had any regrets about the project, told The Sun: “No, no, no, no, certainly not. We had an industry close to my heart because of the jobs. That’s over two million people. . ”

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