London: U.K. government officials have suggested paying people to stay home if they test positive for coronavirus, amid concerns too many are failing to get tested or comply with the lockdown rules.
While the plan has not been given final approval, a draft government policy paper proposed payments of 500 pounds ($685). Currently only those on the lowest incomes receive support at this level if they’re told to quarantine.
The policy, which would cost about 2 billion pounds a month, would be designed to overcome people’s fear of losing income if forced to self-isolate by a positive test, according to a document dated Jan. 19 obtained by the Guardian and confirmed by a person familiar with the matter.
Environment Secretary George Eustice called the idea “speculation” and said “no decisions have been made” when asked about the proposal in broadcast interviews on Friday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a press conference at 5 p.m. on Friday.
“We do want to improve compliance rates with self-isolation for people who have been in contact with somebody who has tested positive, for instance, and we do want people to get that test if they have symptoms of the virus,” Eustice told LBC radio. “But this would also be a huge cost.”
The U.K. is in its third national lockdown with the highest death toll in Europe. The latest figures show 94,580 people died in the U.K. within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.
The desire to avoid isolation is the biggest barrier to requesting a test and only 17% of people with symptoms are coming forward for testing, according to the Jan. 19 policy paper. Only a quarter of people reported compliance with self-isolation rules, while 15% are still going to work as normal, the Guardian cited the document as saying.
Ministers have been increasingly concerned over a lack of compliance by a minority of people and on Thursday announced new fines of 800 pounds for anyone attending a house party.
Johnson also signaled the lockdown could last until summer, despite coming under pressure from members of his Conservative Party for a plan to ease the lockdown as soon as the government meets its target to vaccinate the 15 million most vulnerable people. Johnson wants to achieve that goal by Feb. 15.
Shops, restaurants and schools are closed, and people have been told to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. The restrictions threaten to push the economy into another recession, after suffering its worst decline in three centuries. –Bloomberg