Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s “eat out to help” ambitions to aid a struggling hospitality sector suffered a setback on Friday as the Office for National Statistics suggested just one in five people are ready to return to restaurants.
The ONS survey of 2,500 people, carried out before the £500m voucher scheme was announced, found just 20pc of adults were comfortable with eating at restaurants either indoors or outdoors, compared with 60pc of respondents put off by the idea.
Among the over-70s, those at most risk of dying from Covid-19, two-thirds of all respondents rated themselves either “uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” with eating out.
Mr Sunak put leisure and hospitality at the centre of his summer statement this week, also unveiling a £4.1bn temporary VAT cut for the sector in a bid to protect two million jobs.
But only a quarter of adults said they were likely to take a holiday in the UK to take advantage of the package, which offers up to £10 per person off meals for three days a week throughout August.
Consumers locked in since late March are even more gloomy about going to the cinema, with just 13pc of respondents willing to return compared to 70pc uncomfortable with the idea.
The ONS added that anxiety levels are also on the rise as Boots and John Lewis become the latest big retail names to shed thousands of jobs ahead of the closure of the Government’s furlough scheme at the end of October.
Some 9.4 million jobs have been preserved under the £60bn scheme. But the Chancellor has warned that the support is “unsustainable” over the longer term, and said he did not want to offer “false hope” to furloughed workers.
Of those furloughed the ONS said that 71pc expected to return to work, but one in ten admitted they were unlikely to resume their old job and a further 11pc did not know.
ONS statistician Hugh Stickland said: “While lockdown restrictions continued to be lifted, our survey shows people feeling cautious about going out and planning holidays, and some appear less certain about their working futures.”
The Chancellor is facing a £500bn deficit over this year and next to help pay for the impact of Covid-19, but debt costs remain at historic lows and a surge in US infections pushed borrowing costs down further today.