From today (28 September), anyone who tests positive for coronavirus or is contacted by NHS Test & Trace must self-isolate – or be fined thousands of pounds.
The government has turned the moral obligation of isolation into a legal duty this week – with those who don’t follow instructions liable for immediate £1,000 fines (increasing up to £10,000 for repeat offenders).
People on lower incomes who cannot work from home and have lost income will also be able to claim £500 Test and Trace Support Payments.
Funds will be available from 12 October, but anyone who has to self-isolate from today will receive backdated payments.
Just under 4 million people who are in receipt of benefits in England will be eligible.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Anyone can catch coronavirus and anyone can spread it. We all have a crucial part to play in keeping the number of new infections down and protecting our loved ones.
“As cases rise it is imperative we take action, and we are introducing a legal duty to self-isolate when told to do so, with fines for breaches and a new £500 support payment for those on lower incomes who can’t work from home while they are self-isolating.
“These simple steps can make a huge difference to reduce the spread of the virus, but we will not hesitate to put in place further measures if cases continue to rise.”
The government has said it is taking a “number of steps” to ensure compliance and tackle the growing numbers of cases in the UK, which toppled 6,000 on both Saturday and Sunday.
From today, NHS Test and Trace call handlers are increasing contact with those self-isolating; police will check compliance in ‘highest incidence areas and in high-risk groups’; and investigations are being launched into ‘high-profile and egregious cases of non-compliance’.
The new NHS tracking app also launched last week, receiving over 10 million downloads so far.
The government has called self-isolation “one of the most powerful tools” for controlling the transmission of COVID-19.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the new law was “about saving lives.”
“Everyone must take personal responsibility and self-isolate if they test positive or if told to do so by NHS Test and Trace,” said the cabinet minister.
“For those who fail to do so, the police will enforce the law. These new fines are a clear sign that we will not allow those who break the rules to reverse the hard-won progress made by the law-abiding majority.”
Employers who force or allow staff to come to work when they should be self-isolating will also be liable for fines of up to £10,000.
The self-isolation period is 14 days.
The government’s instructions are as follows:
“If someone is instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, because they have had close contact with someone outside their household who has tested positive, they are legally required to self-isolate for the period notified by NHS Test and Trace.
“Both household and non-household contacts must self-isolate for the full period, regardless of whether they have symptoms and, if they develop symptoms and take a test, regardless of whether any test taken gives a negative result.”