London Daily

Focus on the big picture.

Matt Hancock mocked Eat Out To Help Out amid concerns about spread of Covid-19

Matt Hancock mocked Eat Out To Help Out amid concerns about spread of Covid-19

The former Health Secretary branded the scheme ‘eat out to help the virus get about’

Matt Hancock mocked Rishi Sunak’s “Eat Out To Help Out” scheme and expressed concern that it would fuel the spread of Covid-19, according to leaked WhatsApp messages.

The former Health Secretary dubbed the scheme “eat out to help the virus get about” amid fears that the increase in indoor dining sparked a second wave of the virus.

Eat Out To Help Out was among a package of measures announced by Mr Sunak to kickstart the economy in summer 2020.

Under the Treasury scheme, diners received a 50 per cent discount on food and non-alcoholic drinks at participating restaurants from Monday to Wednesday. It launched on August 3, 2020, when social distancing measures were relaxed following the first national lockdown.

WhatsApp messages published by the Telegraph as part of its Lockdown Files investigation reveal that Mr Hancock was privately anxious over the scheme.

In a message to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case dated August 24, 2020, he wrote: “Just want to let you know directly that we have had lots of feedback that Eat our (sic) to help out is causing problems in our intervention areas. I’ve kept it out of the news but it’s serious. So please please lets not allow the economic success of the scheme to lead to its extension.”

Asked by Mr Case whether he had informed Mr Sunak of his concerns, the ex-Health Secretary replied: “Yes and we’ve told treasury – we’ve been protecting them in the comms & thankfully it hasn’t bubbles up (sic).”

Mr Case noted that restaurants were “insanely packed” from Monday through to Wednesday but “totally deserted” in the second half of the week.

In a message to an aide in December 2020, Mr Hancock also referred to the scheme as “eat out to help the virus get about”.

Eat out to Help Out was a flagship policy of Rishi Sunak’s Treasury


The Standard was not able to independently verify the messages.

A study conducted by Warwick University, published in October 2020, found that the scheme had “caused a significant rise in new infections”. By September 14, the Government had introduced a six-person limit on socialising and later imposed a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants.

One exchange, from June 2020, came as the Government considered how to relax restrictions. The messages show that Mr Hancock wanted cafes and restaurants to keep a register of customers’ details for NHS Test and Trace, urging that guidance would read “should” as opposed to “can”.

The latter phrasing, according to the messages, was preferred by then-business secretary Sir Alok Sharma.

“The language on customer logs has just gone from ‘should’ to ‘can’. Grateful if you can fix – we can’t reverse this at the last minute!” Mr Hancock said.

Mr Case replied: “Alok blocking ‘should’. Will need to fix after this meeting.”

Later, he said: “If Alok mad enough to raise it, PM will probably be clear again.”

Mr Hancock, responding, says that the “question I can’t understand is why Alok is against controlling the virus. Strange approach”.

“Pure Conservative ideology,” Mr Case responds.

The Telegraph has obtained more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages between Mr Hancock, ministers and officials over the course of the pandemic. They were passed to the newspaper by journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who ghost-wrote Mr Hancock’s memoir.

Ms Oakeshott, who has described lockdowns as a “disaster”, said she was releasing the messages as the official Covid inquiry would take “many years” and could be a “whitewash”.

In response, a spokesperson for Mr Hancock accused Ms Oakeshott and the newspaper of twisting the messages to fit an “anti-lockdown agenda”.

They insisted that an inquiry remains “the right place for an analysis of what happened in the pandemic”.

Newsletter

Related Articles

London Daily
0:00
0:00
Close
The gunman who attempted to assassinate Donald Trump Saturday is 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks
Banksy's Influence on Port Talbot's Street Art Scene
Bodies of Two Men Found in Suitcases on Bristol Bridge, 24-Year-Old Arrested
Kate Middleton to Attend Wimbledon Men's Final Amid Cancer Recovery
Russia's Electronic Warfare Neutralizes Western Weapons in Ukraine
Trump Challenges Biden to Debate and Golf Match
Macron Accuses Israeli Minister of Election Interference
US Senator Highlights Weaknesses in Western Military Industry During Ukraine Conflict
George Clooney Urges Biden to Withdraw from Presidential Race
Political Shift in the UK: A Detailed Analysis of Labour's Victory and Future Prospects
Viktor Orbán's Peace Mission: A Diplomatic Controversy in the EU
India Advocates Peace and Prosperity: PM Modi's Speech in Austria
New UK PM Keir Starmer Reaffirms Strong Support for Ukraine at NATO Summit
Spain PM Pedro Sanchez Denounces Double Standards on Gaza at NATO Summit
UK Police Arrest Suspect in Crossbow Attack After Three Women Killed
Sunita Williams Safe on ISS, to Address Earth on July 10
Biden Affirms Commitment To Presidential Race
France Faces Political Turmoil and Airport Strikes Ahead of Paris Olympics 2024
Putin Hosts PM Modi for a Private Meeting
TSMC: The Taiwanese Chip Giant Valued Over $1 Trillion
Boeing Pleads Guilty Over 737 MAX Crashes
2024 Predicted to Be World's Hottest Year
Iran's President-Elect Masoud Pezeshkian Reiterates Support for Hezbollah
White House Denies Biden Being Treated for Parkinson's Disease
Biden to Meet New UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer
Biden Insists on Continuing Presidential Race Amid Criticism
UK Defence Minister Pledges Enhanced Support to Ukraine
French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal Resigns After Election Setback
Macron Faces New Political Challenges Despite Election Relief
France's Far-Right Falls Short in Parliamentary Elections
Key Figures in France's Left-Wing New Popular Front Bloc
England Reaches Euro 2024 Semifinals After Penalty Shootout Win
Rishi Sunak Apologizes After Historic Tory Defeat
Voter Discontent in Recent UK and French Elections
Trump was recorded attacking Biden: "I kicked the old pile of shit"
Understanding the MRP Method in UK Elections
US Officials Resign Over Biden's Gaza Policy
First-Time Immigrant Voters Aim to Influence UK Elections 2024
Reform UK Receives Major Donations from Brexit Campaign Group
Tata Steel Strike Called Off, Paving the Way for Crucial Talks
Sir Keir Starmer's Acceptance of Substantial Gifts from UK Donors
New Zealand Introduces Law to Make Tech Giants Pay for News
NASA Astronauts Stranded in Space Due to Boeing's Starliner Issues
OpenAI and Microsoft Sued for Copyright Infringement
Starmer Vows to Renegotiate Brexit Deal Amid Far-Right Rise in France
Monster Hurricane Beryl Hits Caribbean as Category Five Storm
EU Charges Meta with Breaching Antitrust Rules
Biden's Debate Performance Unites Democrats and Republicans
Prison Officer Faces Court Over Inmate Sex Video
Jude Bellingham's Iconic Euro 2024 Goal: A Historic Moment for England
×