Coronavirus: isolation rule-breakers in England may be fined, says Gove | World news

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Fines could be imposed on people in England who flout self-isolation rules amid growing concern the UK is facing a second wave of coronavirus, Michael Gove has confirmed.

The Cabinet Office minister said on Saturday that suggestions the government should introduce a carrot-and-stick approach – with better financial support for those self-isolating and fines for breaches – were “a very fair point”.

The plans, first reported in the Times, are understood to be likely to mirror the 14-day quarantine measures imposed on those returning to the UK from abroad. Police can currently issue fines of up to £1,000 for any such breaches.

Ministers are also reportedly considering plans for a hotline to report those who are breaking quarantine rules to the police.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Gove defended the measures, which have caused disquiet among Conservative backbenchers.

“I don’t want to see fines being levied, but even more I do not want to see people behaving in a way that puts the most vulnerable at risk,” he said.

“Sometimes there’s an argument that’s depicted as though this is pernicious of the liberty of freedom-loving people. Well, there are restrictions, and I love freedom, but the one thing I think is even more important is that you exercise freedom with responsibility.”

On Friday, it was revealed that less than 20% of people in England fully self-isolate when asked to do so, according to documents released from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage). Mass testing would be of no use unless this percentage increases, the report added.

The scientists say the poorest people are the least likely to self-isolate because they cannot afford to stay home. “Self-reported ability to self-isolate or quarantine is three times lower in those with incomes less than £20,000 or savings less than £100.”

Rich and poor alike say they are willing to self-isolate, so the issue is whether the household income is sufficient. Where it is not, more financial support is needed, according to Sage.

“This will require financial and other resources at levels that hitherto have not been made available in England as part of the existing NHS test-and-trace system,” minutes released in the Sage documents said. “While paid sick leave has been judged an effective intervention to reduce transmission of Sars-CoV-2 across OECD countries, it does not include all workers, such as those on casual or zero-hours contracts, or gig workers. In addition, payment level and duration vary considerably across countries, with the level most often below gross pay.”

The shadow chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, tweeted on Saturday: “This paper clearly and soberly shows that Statutory Sick Pay is too low in value and restricted in scope for the current crisis.

“Labour’s been calling for reform for months. People mustn’t be pushed into debt for self-isolating. Now the govt must listen.”

The UK reported 3,539 new coronavirus infections on Friday, while data released by the Government Office for Science and Sage showed the reproduction number, or R-value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK has risen above 1.

Guardian analysis shows that one in nine people across the UK are once more under some form of lockdown restrictions, with Birmingham, Sandwell and Solihull among the latest places to face tougher measures.

Gove denied the UK was heading towards a second national lockdown. He told Times Radio that new measures such as “targeted local lockdowns” and “new regulations governing social contact” were to ensure that children can still go to school, adults can still go to work and the “life of the nation can continue”.

Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Coronavirus: isolation rule-breakers in England may be fined, says Gove | World news

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