Coronavirus: Government will pay people on low incomes to stay at home if they test positive

People on low incomes asked to self-isolate because they or a contact have tested positive for coronavirus will be paid to stay at home, under plans announced by the government.

The new means-tested benefit, which will only be paid to people in designated outbreak areas, is worth up to £182 for a 14-day isolation period and is being introduced with the aim of ensuring people can afford to miss out on work.

But local government leaders in areas covered by scheme warned that the payments were not generous enough to compensate for income lost through self-isolation.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the payment “goes nowhere near far enough”, adding people need “full pay”.

And the Labour leader of Pendle Council, Mohammed Iqbal, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I welcome the fact that there is a financial package in place but the figures that the government have introduced are really a slap in the face for those people who sadly test positive.

“If you are somebody who works full-time who’s not able to work from home, what the government is saying is that they will pay £4.55 an hour to self-isolate. That is not good enough. The worry that I’ve got is that people who test positive or are told to isolate, there is no incentive there for them to stay at home.”

Oldham Council leader Sean Fielding said: “I am pleased that the government have agreed to at least provide some financial help for those being asked to self-isolate in Oldham. Sadly this offer is nowhere near enough to provide real support, and it shows how out of touch with ordinary people this government is.”

Announcing the measure, health secretary Matt Hancock said the new payment would “help people on low incomes and who are unable to work from home to continue playing their part in the national fight against this virus”.

He added that while the British public had “already sacrificed a great deal”, “self-isolating if you have tested positive for Covid-19, or have come into contact with someone who has, remains vital to keeping on top of local outbreaks”.

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