Chancellor Rishi Sunak has offered the whole of the UK discounts on meals eaten out, as part of his eat out to help out scheme, which aims to support the struggling hospitality industry and in turn hopefully slow the economy’s speed towards a corona-induced recession. The hospitality sector placed 1.4 million employees on furlough this year, which is the highest proportion of any sector.
Sunak presented a plan for the whole of August, on each Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, that offers diners up to 50 per cent off of their meals and soft drinks. The discount is capped at £10 per person and will not include alcoholic beverages. As this only applies to a few days per week, the prices will look the same on a restaurant’s menu but when the bill comes, then the discount will be applied. What has been deducted will be claimed back from the government by the facility. Establishments that are eligible to take part must have a seating area of their own that customers can use, which means ghost kitchens will not be able to offer such low prices.
There is no limit as to how many times you can use the promotion but you do have to eat or drink what you pay for on the premises, so, no take-outs involved. Catering services aren’t included, neither are bed and breakfasts or food trucks.
Many independent eateries and cafes have signed up to the scheme, as well as big chains and some workplace canteens. You can find out which businesses are offering deals on the government website, where all businesses that are taking part will be listed. Simply search the postcode you want to dine in, also look out for posters on windows of cafes and restaurants as there are sure to be some of these around too!
There is no minimum spend to get the discount either, so if you bought a £1 cup of coffee at a business taking part in the scheme, you would be paying 50p instead. Lovely!
In the case of a local lockdown being put in place, the scheme won’t be implemented simply because of the fact that the social facilities such as pubs and restaurants will have to be locked down too to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
There has been some criticism though, as several fast food chains are involved in the scheme. The discount scheme sits alongside the government’s healthy eating plan, which has banned the “buy one get one free” deals on unhealthy food, due to the growing evidence of links between obesity and an increased risk from COVID-19. The UK’s Care Minister, Helen Whately, told LBC Radio that these fast food chain restaurants will have to publish calorie breakdowns of their meals giving the chance to consumers to make an ‘informed choice’
With this being said, businesses of all kinds still need to be built back up. Sunak has made the incentive clear, we need to get pubs and cafes “bustling again.” He also added that the moment is unique, so “we need to be creative.” There has never been a situation like this before, so it is likely we have to try measures that haven’t been tried before as well. So, let’s try to get out, enjoy a cheap meal and see whether the scheme is working before tackling it.
There’s not much news around that doesn’t pertain to coronavirus right now. It already feels overwhelming. Does anyone else miss Brexit? Monday’s nationwide lockdown is to last for three weeks, at a minimum—such uncertainty is particularly worrisome. But some developments are particularly important, such as the passage of specific legislation through the UK Parliament to tackle the spread and damage of the virus.
Obviously, new and sweeping legislation is needed to grant the government and public services greater powers during the coronavirus pandemic. The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 provides powers needed to respond to the ongoing crisis and consists of four key categories: “enhancing capacity and the flexible deployment of staff; easing of legislative and regulatory requirements; containing and slowing the virus; and managing the deceased.”
One of the most significant (and necessary) powers is the ability to restrict events and force the closure of spaces and premises, such as pubs and clubs. Boris Johnson already issued an order for pubs to close on Friday 20, and many venues had already closed voluntarily over the preceding week, but this bill formalised and clarified the legal powers going forward. It allows the British government to use the authorities to stop people entering premises and forcibly shut down any organised events.
The new law also establishes how people can sign up to become emergency volunteers, in order to ease the pressure on key areas of the NHS and social services. Furthermore, it allows recently retired medical staff and newly or nearly qualified medical students to work immediately, giving specific protections against possible negligence claims.
There are some particularly morbid details about the registration of deaths (feel free to skip forward a paragraph). Doctors will be able to sign death certificates without seeing a patient’s corpse—which seems astonishing—and only one medical certificate from one medical practitioner will be required to cremate a body (in England and Wales), undoing reforms that were brought in after the details of Harold Shipman’s deeds came to light.
Due to the urgent and temporary nature of the legislation, a formal impact assessment was not required; the bill did not undergo the usual processes of analysis and scrutiny, despite being drafted in just a few days.
In the first draft of the bill, these powers would have stayed in place for two years despite Johnson’s repeated claims that the worst of it will be over in twelve weeks. However, an amendment from Labour’s Harriet Harman, chair of the Committee on Human Rights, argued that this legislation should be debated and renewed every six months: the government has since introduced its own amendment to the same effect.
Journalist Carole Cadwalladr tweeted out notes sent to her by an experienced regulatory lawyer who voiced concerns about some of the specifics of the bill. “In essence, the proposed law is far wider reaching than defeating the virus,” they explained, citing, “Major changes to NHS and social care, including refusal to treat and charging for treatment, not limited to where there’s a high number of coronavirus cases,” and, “Drastic measures allowing police and immigration officers to hold people for up to 48 hours.”
This legislation allows constables and immigration officers to detain or isolate “a person who is, or may be, infectious during the course of their normal functions at the border or while exercising immigration enforcement functions in country.” The lack of specificity here, as well as the more pervasive paranoia, could easily be abused: might someone be deemed infectious for coughing?
Similarly, David Allen Green—a very experienced and useful legal commentator—provided an astute analysis of the first draft. “No extension of police coercive power should ever just be nodded through,” he tweeted. “There is a ratchet effect of any expansion of state power – as twenty years of terrorism legislation shows,” he explains. “If the executive can grab power, it will do so, especially when it can be justified by emergencies.”
Certain clauses also allow councils, who provide much social care, to prioritise care for those considered to be most ‘at risk’. Disability and human rights campaigners have warned that this could easily endanger elderly and disabled people, depending on the exact definition of ‘most at risk’.
About the new bill, the charity Disability Rights UK said that “given the already broken social care system this bill will almost inevitably leave many thousands of disabled people without essential support or any rights to request this support.”
These are, of course, emergency measures and will only be activated, one hopes, when absolutely necessary. However, to put those at risk (both in general and specifically from coronavirus) further at risk seems like a flawed strategy. Let us hope such provisions never have to be used.
There is a lot to criticise about the UK government’s response to coronavirus—and a lot they can be given credit for. When this is all over, whenever that might be, there will need to be serious reflection and analysis. Until then, it’s a waiting game.