Quarantine Quid: UK mulls proposal to pay people to isolate, to make up for lost income for vulnerable

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January 23, 2021 7:00 AM

The incentive, if it meets the government’s nod, could be as high as 500 pounds; currently, the government pays this amount to only those in the lowest incomes.

All this has to be read against the backdrop of the UK having reported a strain that is highly transmissible, and the fact that over 3% of the country’s working population is on contracts for which they don’t get paid if they don’t turn up for work.All this has to be read against the backdrop of the UK having reported a strain that is highly transmissible, and the fact that over 3% of the country’s working population is on contracts for which they don’t get paid if they don’t turn up for work.

Getting people to isolate despite very real chances of lost income because of ‘no show’ at work has many governments foxed. How effective deterrents such as fines, even jail-time as proposed by some jurisdictions, have been is impossible to tell. The UK government is reportedly mulling over a cash-incentive to encourage isolation, The Guardian reports.

The incentive, if it meets the government’s nod, could be as high as 500 pounds; currently, the government pays this amount to only those in the lowest incomes. While the statutory sick pay, paid by the employer, is just under a 100 pounds a week, the median weekly income is close to 600 pounds. At the proposed rate, the incentive could work out nearly 500 million pounds per week, a cost the government will find difficult to foot.

The government wants to improve compliance with isolation for those who have been in contact with somebody who has been confirmed as infected. It also wants to prod more people manifesting symptoms to turn up for testing as the concern over isolation leading to income-loss is beating down testing appetite—the government reports that just 17% of the people who should be turning up for testing based on manifest symptoms are getting tested.

Only a quarter advised isolation are complying with it while 15% are going to work as usual. All this has to be read against the backdrop of the UK having reported a strain that is highly transmissible, and the fact that over 3% of the country’s working population is on contracts for which they don’t get paid if they don’t turn up for work. Governments need to find ways to protect the economically vulnerable if the fight against Covid-19 is to have meaning.

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