Pret and Itsu founder says UK should no longer lock down ‘to save thousands of very old or vulnerable lives’

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The founder of Pret a Manger and Itsu said the company “will not recover” if the UK enters a second lockdown “for the sake of a few thousand lives of the elderly and very vulnerable”.

Julian Metcalfe, whose fortune is estimated at £ 215million, said a foreclosure would be ‘impossible’.

He told the Daily mail: “The young people of this country will pay for it for the next 20 to 30 years. It’s terrible what’s going on.

“It is not because France is doing this with its socialist government that we have to do it.”

His comments come as the UK recorded 24,701 new coronavirus cases and 310 deaths in 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 45,675.

Pret a Manger moved away from Mr Metcalfe’s remarks on Thursday. The sandwich chain tweeted: “We are aware of Julian Metcalfe’s comments this morning, but he hasn’t run the business for over ten years and we don’t share his opinion.

“At Pret, we firmly believe that we must take action to stop the spread of the virus and tackle the new wave of infections.”

Mr Metcalfe’s investments in Pret and the Itsu sushi chain have helped him amass a fortune of £ 215million, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

The newspaper reported that its stake in Pret was valued at £ 75million when the company was sold in 2018.

The Harrow-trained entrepreneur owns a majority stake in Itsu.

Mr. Metcalfe sharply criticized the government’s handling of the pandemic. In September, he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One that the restrictions, including a 10 pm curfew for pubs and restaurants, were “criminal”.

“The impact of these six months is going to be devastating for so many people, for local councils, for the industry, for people across the country, just devastating,” he said.

“We just haven’t started to touch the gravity of this.

“What we need is government, especially our Prime Minister, this man sitting with his Union Jack talking nonsense – that’s where we need leadership.

Itsu and Pret have both been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic that has decimated commerce in city centers, with commuters staying at home.

Pret said last month he would cut 400 jobs in London, in addition to the nearly 2,900 layoffs announced in August.

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