Ex-communications chief tells inquiry Eat Out to Help Out ‘made absolutely no sense whatsoever’

The Eat Out to Help Out scheme and the policy of sending people back to work during the pandemic “made absolutely no sense whatsoever”, Boris Johnson’s former director of communications told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry.

Lee Cain said he was critical of the Eat Out to Help Out policy when it was implemented by the then chancellor Rishi Sunak in August 2020.

Mr Cain (pictured) told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry: “I, and particularly the other communicators as well, were just finding it very, very difficult because a huge part of what our role and responsibility is at that point is ‘what are we signalling to the public?’

“At this point of developing policy, we are indicating to people that Covid is over – go back out, get back to work, crowd yourself on to trains, go into restaurants and enjoy pizzas with friends and family – really build up that social mixing.

“Now that is fine if you are intent on never having to do suppression measures again – but from all the evidence we are receiving, from all the advice we are receiving, it was incredibly clear that we were going to have to do suppression measures again.

“We knew that all the way through, that was the strategy from the start.”

Mr Cain continued: “So to then move forward and say ‘hey we’re going to get back into work’, when business wasn’t even asking for people to come back into work, in fact they were encouraging their employees to stay at home still.

“It was Government that seemed to be on its own demanding people go to work when the research we had was still quite cautious, businesses were feeding back they didn’t want to do it, the scientific opinion was we were going to have to have another lockdown.

“So to me it made absolutely no sense whatsoever why we were talking about getting everybody back to work and they were the stories that ended up being on the front pages – which was a cause of great frustration.”

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