Boris Johnson admits that the Eat Out to Help Out program may have contributed to a surge in coronavirus cases, but says it was crucial to save "hundreds of thousands of jobs".
- Boris Johnson admitted that the Eat Out to Help Out program may have fueled cases
- PM insisted that public subsidies were essential to save hundreds of thousands of jobs
- Mr Johnson said the government needs to balance the economy and the curbs
Boris Johnson today admitted that government flagship Eat Out to Help Out may have fueled the surge in coronavirus cases.
The prime minister has been repeatedly challenged whether the government has contributed to the recent surge in infections by encouraging people to eat out and return to offices.
However, Mr Johnson insisted that the subsidy was critical in saving "hundreds of thousands" of jobs and stressed that ministers needed to strike a "balance" between saving the economy and protecting public health.
The comments came while the Prime Minister was interviewed on the BBC's Andrew Marr show at the start of the Tory Party conference, which is practically in the midst of the pandemic.
Marr told Mr Johnson that measures like the Eat-Out program, which subsidized millions of half-price meals in restaurants in August, have contributed to the flare-up since early September.
The Prime Minister was repeatedly challenged today by the BBC's Andrew Marr (pictured) on whether the government contributed to the recent surge in infections by encouraging people to eat out and return to offices
Marr told Mr Johnson that measures like the Eat-Out program, which subsidized millions of half-price meals in restaurants in August, have contributed to the flare-up since early September
The Prime Minister said the government was trying to "strike a balance".
“I think it was right to reopen the economy. I think if we hadn't, Andrew, if we hadn't got things moving again in the summer, we'd be looking at many more hundreds of thousands of lost jobs, ”said Johnson.
Pressed again, Mr Johnson said, "I think too, I also think that it matters now, whether or not Eat Out To Help Out you know what the balance was, it has undoubtedly helped protect many … there are at least two million jobs in the hospitality industry.
“It was very important to keep these jobs going. If this is the case, provided that this scheme helped spread the virus, then of course we must counter it, and we must counter it with the discipline and the measures we propose.
"I hope you understand the balance we are striving for."
Mr Johnson admitted people were "angry" with him about the 10pm pubs curfew, the rule of six and the chaotic local curbs, but defended his handling of the crisis amid growing unrest on his own benches.
He urged the public to "be fearless but use common sense" to manage the outbreak without destroying the economy.
Mr Johnson said he was working "at full speed" and hoped that "over the next few weeks and months the scientific equation will change" and that this would allow for a "different approach".
However, in an interview on the BBC's Andrew Marr show, he warned that the restrictions could drag on until 2021.
"I know people are angry and they are angry with me and angry with the government," said Mr Johnson.
“But you know, I have to tell you frankly that it will still be bumpy until Christmas, it can even be bumpy beyond that. However, this is the only way to do it.
He added, "This could be a very tough winter for all of us."
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