UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak caused a stir on Thursday after he refused to rule out introducing a second Eat Out To Help Out scheme once the country emerged from the second lockdown.
While speaking to Sky News, Mr Sunak said that the government would consider a "range of things" to "get consumers spending again and people out and about" as the UK faces economic decline as a result of the coronavirus restrictions.
"I won't talk about specific measures but more broadly, I think it's right that when we finally exit this, and hopefully next year with testing and maybe indeed vaccines as well, we'll be able to start looking forward to getting back to normal", the chancellor said.
"I think we'll have to look at the economic situation then and see what's the best form of our support, and we want to make sure that we get the economy going strongly coming out of this".
The Eat Out To Help Out scheme saw diners receive up to 50% off meals after the government provided over £500 million in subsidies to restaurants and food services across the country. Throughout the August period, more than 100 million meals were provided on state support.
Sky's economics editor Ed Conway asked if whether the discount scheme would be reintroduced, citing data that while much of the economic recovery seen over the summer as initial coronavirus restrictions loosened, more recent GDP data indicated that the resurgent activity was short-lived once the policy ended.
The economy saw a record 15.5% growth in the third quarter but economists predict that the second lockdown will see a decline in the last three months of 2020.
A Reluctant Public?
While a second Eat Out To Help Out scheme could help the ravaged hospitality industry recover, many believe that the policy would lead to another explosion in coronavirus cases as people return to busy pubs and restaurants.
— Tez (@tezilyas) November 12, 2020
— holly cos it’s christmas🎄🎅🏻 (@hollieh0llie) November 12, 2020
Others highlighted the government's refusal to fund free school meals for low-income children but are willing to spend public funds subsidising meals.
— justiceforbreonnataylor (@raeesachm) November 12, 2020
'Lockdown 3' even begin to trend on Twitter after people blamed the first discount scheme for leading to the second wave of coronavirus and the subsequent recent lockdown.
— char 🔪 (@screamsIasher) November 12, 2020
Others were more positive, praising the scheme for its reduced prices of restaurant meals.
— Celebrity Reacts (@CelebReactz) November 12, 2020
— Callum Smith (@callumsmith278) November 12, 2020
According to a Warwick University study, the initiative was responsible for a "significant" rise in coronavirus infections. The researchers identified that "1 in 6" infections were caused by the scheme throughout the August and early-September period.
The Treasury rejects the research and said that other countries in Europe saw an increase in COVID-19 cases regardless of the existence of a similar policy.