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Have your say: Should people be paid £500 if they test positive for COVID?

Ellen Manning
·3-min read
 Covid-19 test center sign seen outside. On the day that the UK sees the highest daily toll of 1,325 deaths from Covid-19 this 'walk-In' test Centre at the University of Bedfordshire is empty. Despite the fact that latest figures show that Bedford has Covid-19 rates of 936 cases per 100k of population against a national average of 594. (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
People who test positive for COVID could automatically be given £500 as part of plans ministers are reportedly considering to encourage people to adhere to self-isolation rules. (Getty)

Downing Street has denied suggestions that everyone in England who tests positive for coronavirus could be given £500 in a bid to encourage them to follow rules on self-isolation.

A leaked document seen by The Guardian had suggested that ministers were considering paying everyone in England £500 in an effort to increase the number of people abiding by quarantine rules.

The report was reportedly prompted by polling figures suggesting that only 17% of people with COVID symptoms are coming forward for testing while just one-in-four people are complying with rules to self-isolate for 10 days after testing positive and 15% continue to go to work as normal.

People across England are legally required to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus or are contacted by NHS test and trace.

On Friday the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “There are no plans to introduce an extra £500 payment.”

The spokesman added: “We already offer a £500 payment to support those on low incomes who cannot work from home.

“We’ve given local authorities £70 million for the scheme and they are able to provide extra payments on top of those £500 if they think it necessary.

“That £500 is on top of any other benefits and statutory sick pay that people are eligible for.”

The spokesman, asked about the Department of Health and Social Care document that the universal payment suggestion was allegedly made in, said he would not comment on a leaked paper.

Earlier, Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News: “We do need people, if they are asked to self-isolate because they have been contacted through our Test and Trace, we do need them to self-isolate.

“And, obviously, we always review the reasons why they might not.”

Read more

What you can and can't do under current lockdown rules

On the suggested payment, he added: “No decisions have been made on this. But, this is a dynamic, fast-moving situation with the pandemic. We are always keeping multiple policies under review.

“We have had a targeted £500 payment already for those who are on benefits to help them with the costs of staying at home when they are unable to work.”

Watch: Hancock announces £500 payment for people who self-isolate

In September, Matt Hancock announced that people on low incomes who need to self-isolate would be eligible for a £500 payment.

The Resolution Foundation, a think tank which previously calculated that only one in eight workers qualify for the financial support currently offered to those told to self-isolate, welcomed the reported proposal to offer a more generous system if people test positive for COVID.

Read more: Interactive map shows how many over-80s have been vaccinated in your area

Researcher Maja Gustafsson said: “The current approach is not fit for purpose with statutory sick pay among the least generous of advanced economies and far too few people eligible for the £500 support payments.

“Swiftly putting in place a much more universal and generous system will make a real difference to controlling the spread of the virus.”

Ahead of the government’s denial that the measure would be taken, the DHSC said it would not comment on a leaked paper but did not deny that blanket self-isolation payouts had been mooted.

A spokesman said: “We are in one of the toughest moments of this pandemic and it is incumbent on all of us to help protect the NHS by staying at home and following the rules.

“All local authority costs for administering the Test and Trace support payment scheme are covered by the Government, and each authority is empowered to make discretionary payments outside of the scheme.

“£50 million was invested when the scheme launched, and we are providing a further £20 million to help support people on low incomes who need to self-isolate.”

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown