LONDON: Britain’s finance minister urged people to “eat out to help out” as the UK attempts to claw its way back from a historic economic decline sparked by the coronavirus crisis.
The comments by Chancellor Rishi Sunak were published on the day England finally reopened its hospitality sector after more than three months of lockdown.
Britain’s shutdown has been one of Europe’s longest because of an official toll – 44,131 – that only trails those of the US and Brazil.
Sunak said the closures have been especially painful for Britain because consumption makes up about two-third of its gross domestic product. “That’s more than most of our peers,” he told The Times newspaper.
“So we have a situation like this, with social distancing we’re obviously going to be particularly impacted by that.”
Sunak said he “worried about a generation that is scarred by coronavirus” – especially younger people who see the hospitality sector as their way into the job market.
“For me this is really about social justice,” he said.
“People act responsibly, but ultimately if we eat out to help out we can protect those jobs. It’s not abstract.”
The true scale of Britain’s unemployment problem will only be revealed once the government starts winding down its jobs furlough scheme in August.
The state currently supports 80 percent of most people’s wages. But jobless claims still surged 126 percent to 2.8 million in the three months to May.