Chancellor Rishi Sunak defended his Eat Out to Help Out scheme from suggestions it helped increase coronavirus infection rates.

The scheme, which aimed to support business following the reopening following the lockdown period offered 50% off the cost of food and/or non-alcoholic drinks eaten-in at participating businesses UK-wide.

However, Sunak faced criticism on Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday this morning amid suggestions that the policy resulted in a second wave. 

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Host Sophy Ridge said to the Chancellor: "When it comes to Covid, some would argue you have got quite a lot of things wrong.

"According to the University of Warrick, your Eat Out To Help Out scheme caused a significant rise in new infections and accelerated the pandemic into its second wave. 

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"Last September you said we need to live with it, live without fear, according to the ONS since September more than 80,000 people have died with Covid on their death certificate. 

He denied that was the case and telling Sophy Ridge: "With regard to Eat Out to Help Out actually I think there are many different studies and I don't agree with that because if you look at it, areas, where Eat Out to Help Out, was used the most, for example in the South West, were the slowest to see any rise and in fact had very low infection rates.

“And almost all other major countries have had rises over the autumn and winter and they didn’t have Eat Out to Help Out so I think it’s a bit odd to ascribe causality in that way.”

"What I was trying to do, and I think it was the right thing to do, is to try and protect the over 2 million people that work in the hospitality industry."