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Eat Out To Help Out ‘a mistake’, says son whose father died with Covid-19

A man whose father died after he contracted Covid-19 in hospital in 2020 said the Eat Out To Help Out scheme was ‘a mistake’ (Yui Mok/PA)
A man whose father died after he contracted Covid-19 in hospital in 2020 said the Eat Out To Help Out scheme was ‘a mistake’ (Yui Mok/PA)

A man whose father died after he contracted Covid-19 in hospital in 2020 said the Eat Out To Help Out scheme was “a mistake”.

Stephen Allen, 69, from Harlaston in Tamworth, Staffordshire, said his father Charles Allen was originally admitted to hospital around the time of the August bank holiday in 2020 with a cracked vertebrae which was affecting his speech.

His late father was placed in a ward where he mentioned to his relatives that another man in the bed beside him was coughing. He then started to cough himself and tested positive for Covid-19.

Mr Allen, 94, died in November 2020 after spending 12 weeks in hospital, with Covid listed on his death certificate among other causes.

Mr Allen told the PA news agency that he felt the Eat Out To Help Out scheme was “a mistake” and said the initiatives put in place by the Government “seemed to spiral out of control”.

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arriving to give evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry on Monday (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Mr Allen spoke out as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who served as chancellor during the pandemic and was responsible for implementing Eat Out To Help Out, appeared before the UK Covid-19 Inquiry on Monday.

Mr Sunak used his opening remarks to the inquiry to issue an apology, saying he was “deeply sorry” to those who lost loved ones and who suffered during the pandemic “as a result of the actions that were taken”.

He also defended the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, saying it was the “right thing to do to protect” workers from the “devastating consequences” of job losses.

The initiative was launched in a bid to support the hard-hit hospitality sector as the UK emerged from the restrictions imposed during the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Sir Patrick Vallance, who was chief scientific adviser, previously told the Covid-19 Inquiry the scheme was “highly likely” to have fuelled deaths.

Mr Allen said he thought the initiative to get people using bars and restaurants was “a mistake”.

“I feel that it was a mistake to do that, as with mistakes that were made early on in the pandemic,” he said.

“It seemed to spiral out of control with some of the things that they were coming up with, I think the economy was foremost in their minds really.”

Mr Allen’s wife, Heather Allen, 67, told PA she believed the scheme may have contributed to her father-in-law catching coronavirus because it encouraged people to mix again.

She said: “I think it was the timespan; he’d been in the hospital so long and he hadn’t contracted Covid all that time – it was lockdown and no visiting and everything was very cautious.

“And then that’s happened, letting people out again.

“They still (hadn’t) got a vaccine and people were going to eat and mixing again.

“That’s why we think it contributed to his death because he’d been in so long before then with no problems.”

She added: “I said at the time, with this Eat Out To Help Out, people are going out, anybody could have passed it onto him.”

Mr Allen said that an apology from the Government around the handling of the scheme “wouldn’t make (him) feel any better”.

“I’m not sure how sincere they are about it to be honest,” he said.

“It’s not people they know, it’s not people they’ve spoken with or interacted with.”

He added: “As we’re finding out, there are mistakes that have been made and things could have been done better, the way Covid was handled.”