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Subsidizing the spread of COVID19 : Evidence from the UK’s Eat-Out to-Help-Out scheme


  • Fetzer, Thiemo

    (University of Warwick)


This paper documents that a large-scale government subsidy aimed at encouraging people to eat out in restaurants in the wake of the first 2020 COVID19 wave in the United Kingdom has had a large causal impact in accelerating the subsequent second COVID19 wave. The scheme subsidized 50% off the cost of food and non-alcoholic drinks for an unlimited number of visits in participating restaurants on Mondays-Wednesdays from August 3 to August 31, 2020. Areas with higher take-up saw both, a notable increase in new COVID19 infection clusters within a week of the scheme starting, and again, a deceleration in infections within two weeks of the program ending. Areas that exhibit notable rainfall during the prime lunch and dinner hours on days the scheme was active record lower infection incidence – a pattern that is also measurable in mobility data – and non-detectable on days during which the discount was not available or for rainfall outside the core lunch and dinner hours. A back of the envelope calculation suggests that the program is accountable for between 8 to 17 percent of all new local infection clusters during that time period.

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  • Fetzer, Thiemo, 2020. "Subsidizing the spread of COVID19 : Evidence from the UK’s Eat-Out to-Help-Out scheme," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1310, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:1310

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    1. Hamish Low & Michaela Benzeval & Jon Burton & Thomas F. Crossley & Paul Fisher & Annette Jäckle & Brendan Read, 2020. "The Idiosyncratic Impact of an Aggregate Shock The Distributional Consequences of COVID-19," Economics Series Working Papers 911, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
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    14. Thiemo Fetzer, 2019. "Did Austerity Cause Brexit?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(11), pages 3849-3886, November.
    15. Scott R Baker & Robert A Farrokhnia & Steffen Meyer & Michaela Pagel & Constantine Yannelis & Jeffrey Pontiff, 0. "How Does Household Spending Respond to an Epidemic? Consumption during the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic," The Review of Asset Pricing Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 10(4), pages 834-862.
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    18. Fetzer, Thiemo & Witte, Marc & Hensel, Lukas & Jachimowicz, Jon M. & Haushofer, Johannes & Ivchenko, Andriy & Reutskaja, Elena & Roth, Christopher & Gomez, Margarita & Kraft-Todd, Gordon & Goetz, Frie, 2020. "Global Behaviors and Perceptions in the COVID-19 Pandemic," CEPR Discussion Papers 14631, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fetzer, Thiemo & Graeber, Thomas, 2020. "Does Contact Tracing Work? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from an Excel Error in England," CEPR Discussion Papers 15494, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Rufrancos, Héctor & Moro, Mirko & Moore, Eva, 2021. "The impact of University reopenings on COVID-19 cases in Scotland," GLO Discussion Paper Series 868, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    3. Esteban Jaimovich, 2024. "The Intensive Margin of Altruism: Impact of Covid-19 on Charitable Giving in England and Wales," Working Papers 297, Red Nacional de Investigadores en Economía (RedNIE).
    4. Islam, Marco, 2021. "Motivated Risk Assessments," Working Papers 2021:12, Lund University, Department of Economics, revised 26 Jul 2022.
    5. Deiana, Claudio & Geraci, Andrea & Mazzarella, Gianluca & Sabatini, Fabio, 2022. "Can relief measures nudge compliance in a public health crisis? Evidence from a kinked fiscal policy rule," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 202(C), pages 407-428.
    6. Solórzano Diego, 2023. "Grab a Bite? Prices in the food away from home industry during the COVID-19 pandemic," Working Papers 2023-18, Banco de México.
    7. Nicolás González-Pampillón & Gonzalo Nunez-Chaim & Katharina Ziegler, 2021. "Recovering from the first Covid-19 lockdown: Economic impacts of the UK's Eat Out to Help Out scheme," CEP Covid-19 Analyses cepcovid-19-018, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    8. Deiana, Claudio & Geraci, Andrea & Mazzarella, Gianluca & Sabatini, Fabio, 2021. "COVID-19 Relief Programs and Compliance with Confinement Measures," IZA Discussion Papers 14064, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    9. Burdett, Ashley & Etheridge, Ben & Wang, Yikai & Tang, Li, 2023. "Worker productivity during Covid-19 and adaptation to working from home," ISER Working Paper Series 2023-04, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    10. Fischer Kai, 2022. "Thinning out spectators: Did football matches contribute to the second COVID-19 wave in Germany?," German Economic Review, De Gruyter, vol. 23(4), pages 595-640, December.
    11. Richard Machin, 2023. "UK local government experience of COVID-19 Lockdown: Local responses to global challenges," Local Economy, London South Bank University, vol. 38(1), pages 80-91, February.
    12. Morrissey, Karyn & Spooner, Fiona & Salter, James & Shaddick, Gavin, 2021. "Area level deprivation and monthly COVID-19 cases: The impact of government policy in England," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 289(C).

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    health ; externalities ; coronavirus ; subsidies ; consumer spending;
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