People In England Could Be Paid £500 To Isolate If They Test Positive For COVID
UK ministers are considering a £500 payment scheme for anyone who tests positive for coronavirus in an effort to boost self-isolation.
The overhaul to the system, proposed on January 19, comes after government polling revealed that only 17% of people with symptoms are coming forward to get a coronavirus test due to fears of testing positive and being forced to stop working.
The government hopes that the payment will encourage low paid workers to self-isolate, in turn preventing the spread of the virus.
According to an official policy paper seen by The Guardian, the universal payment is the ‘preferred position’ of Matt Hancock’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). The paper was drawn up by Hancock’s team and will considered by the government’s coronavirus operations committee, chaired by Michael Gove.
The scheme would cost up to £453m a week, 12 times the cost of the current system, though sources from the Treasury, cited by BBC News, say a universal payment of £500 is unlikely to happen.
BBC Newsnight’s Katie Razzall has noted that the universal payment indicates an admission from the government that too many people with the virus are flouting self-isolation rules, meaning a decision on the matter needs to be made quickly.
Self-isolation became a legal requirement last September, applying to anyone who tests positive for coronavirus.
At the time, the government also introduced a £500 grant, administered by local authorities, to people on low incomes who are not able to work from home. However, figures obtained by Labour and reported by BBC News suggest there have been high rejection rates for those who apply for the payment.
Of the 49,877 applications made between October and December last year, three-quarters were rejected, according to the data.
Commenting on the newly proposed payment, researcher Maja Gustafsson told said: ‘Swiftly putting in place a much more universal and generous system will make a real difference to controlling the spread of the virus.’
As well as the £500 payment, the 16-page document proposes that police could be given access to health data to help crack down on those breaking quarantine rules.
Another recommendation is ending £500 one-off payments to close contacts of infected people, and instead rolling out nationwide self-testing to allow those who fear they may have symptoms to check for the virus themselves. If they test negative, they would be able to return to work.
The coronavirus operations committee is expected to meet today, January 22, to discuss the proposal.
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