Chancellor Rishi Sunak has defended his Eat Out to Help Out scheme, and described his frustration at the 10pm curfew.

In an interview with The Sun newspaper, he dismissed suggestions that the discount meals scheme may have had an impact on the second wave of coronavirus, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested it may have been to blame for rising infections.

Asked if he had any regrets, Sunak said: “No, no, no, no, definitely not. We had an industry that I care deeply about because of employment. It’s over two million people.”

He pointed to low cases of second-wave coronavirus in the South West, claiming that region made the most use of the scheme.

Sunak reportedly saw off a move by colleagues in the cabinet to close the hospitality sector last month as coronavirus cases in the UK began to creep up again.

On the 10pm curfew he said: “Of course it’s frustrating. I know it’s difficult and wish we didn’t have to do these things…

“Our job is to debate policy and come to the right collective answer but the advice of our scientists was that this would make a difference and there we go.

“It’s one of the measures that we put in place but, you know what, we haven’t closed anything down and that is a good thing.”

He added: “Is it frustrating, right? Everyone is very frustrated and exhausted and tired about all of this.”

He warned a further lockdown could cripple the economy and society, making the case for a return to normality in the face of the virus.

Sunak said: “Lockdowns obviously have a very strong economic impact, but they have an impact on many other things.

“We have to look at this all in the round and beating coronavirus is important and minimising the harm that it causes is important.

“But there are other things that are important. Kids not being in school for months… if university students’ learning is impacted that’s not a good thing.”