Matt Hancock admitted keeping rising Covid cases linked to Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out initiative “out of the news”, according to leaked messages.
The details of disagreements over Covid restrictions and the economy-boosting scheme emerged in the latest tranche of Hancock WhatsApps, published by the Daily Telegraph.
The state-backed scheme offered customers a 50% discount, up to £10, on meals and soft drinks on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays as businesses sought to recover from the pandemic.
But critics have argued the scheme could have contributed to the spread of the virus.
The latest messages show the then-health secretary’s worries about the Treasury-backed initiative, with Hancock making his concerns clear to the cabinet secretary, Simon Case, in August 2020.
He wrote: “Just want to let you know directly that we have had lots of feedback that Eat our to help out is causing problems in our jntervention [sic] areas. I’ve kept it out of the news but it’s serious.
“So please please lets not allow the economic success of the scheme to lead to its extension.”
In December that year, in a conversation with an aide, Hancock called the scheme “eat out to help the virus get about”.
The messages also show Hancock saying “we’ve told the treasury”, and that “thankfully it hasn’t bubbles (sic) up”.
Read more: Hancock Buried Rising Covid Cases Linked To ‘Eat Out To Help Out’, Messages Reveal