November 29, 2020

Coronavirus: Most Britons still ‘uncomfortable’ eating out

Chancellor Rishi Sunak speaks to diners at a Wagamamas restaurant Image copyright HM Treasury
Image caption Chancellor Rishi Sunak will spend an estimated £500m subsidising meals in August

A majority of Britons feel uncomfortable at the prospect of eating at a restaurant, an Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey suggests.

Just over two-in-10 of the 1,788 adults in England, Scotland and Wales asked said they would be happy to have a sit-down meal as restrictions ease.

Some 60% said they would be uncomfortable or very uncomfortable eating indoors during the pandemic.

It comes as the government prepares a £500m “eat out to help out” scheme.

Meals eaten at participating restaurants on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August will be subsidised up to £10 a head.

The weekly ONS survey – the first since lockdown measures eased further in England on 4 July – found men were slightly more confident about eating out than women.

And fewer people aged 69 and under said they would be uncomfortable at a restaurant when compared with those over 70.

Image copyright HM Treasury
Image caption The chancellor has also reduced hospitality VAT from 20% to 5% to encourage spending

It suggests opinions are more evenly split on eating outdoors at a restaurant, with nearly four-in-10 (37%) saying they would be comfortable or very comfortable and a similar number saying they would not be.

Those surveyed also expressed their reluctance to visit the cinema – with just over 13% saying they would be comfortable or very comfortable watching a blockbuster film indoors.

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization revised its warning over indoor transmission of the coronavirus as it acknowledged it can be spread by tiny particles suspended in the air.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Popular destinations for Britons, including Benidorm, Spain, have introduced distancing measures

Fewer than one-in-10 of those surveyed said they would holiday abroad in the near future, despite the lifting of quarantine conditions for popular summer destinations on Friday.

But a quarter said they were likely or very likely to go on holiday in the UK this summer.

The ONS survey also reported a rise in the number of adults wearing a face covering outdoors since the previous week.

More than half of adults (52%) who have left their home have worn a face covering – an increase from last week when 43% reported doing so.

Adults with an underlying health condition saw the greatest increase in the proportion wearing a face covering this week, up to 67% compared with 46% last week.

Rules requiring the use of face coverings on public transport were introduced in Wales on 9 June, England on 15 June and in Scotland on 22 June.

They are also now mandatory when visiting NHS facilities across the UK and while shopping in Scotland.