People with Covid could get £500 to stay at home

Parts of Norfolk have some of the lowest rates of new coronavirus cases in the country Picture: Getty...

Parts of Norfolk have some of the lowest rates of new coronavirus cases in the country Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Samara Heisz - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

People who test positive for Covid-19 could be given automatic £500 grants as an incentive to go through with their period of self-isolation.

The government is considering different ways of encouraging people to get tested and then self-isolate, amid concern people are avoiding tests out of fear of financial loss.

The proposal, which could cost in the region of £453m per week, is reported to be the "preferred option" of the Department of Health and Social Care, according to a document leaked to the Guardian newspaper.

It has been prompted by government polling suggesting that fewer than one in every five people (17pc) displaying symptoms are presenting for a test, just one in four people follow all the self-isolating rules and 15pc continue to work as normal.

It is hoped that the grants would mitigate for the fear of loss of earnings for people that are unable to work from home while self-isolating.

A government source said this was one of a number of options being discussed to improve stay-at-home compliance for people who have tested positive.

"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," said a DHSC spokesman.

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"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."

The Resolution Foundation, a think tank which has previously calculated that only one in eight workers qualify for the financial support currently offered to those told to self-isolate, welcomed the proposal.

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."

A DHSC declined to comment on the leaked documents.