Less than 48 hours after revealing that the UK is on the cusp of a second wave of coronavirus, Boris Johnson has unveiled his carrot and stick approach to enforcing self isolation. The significant move - which also involves new snooping powers for the police - comes as the government desperately tries to avoid a second national lockdown which could cause immense damage to the economy.
It follows a warning from Professor Neil Ferguson, whose advice prompted the first national lockdown, that the UK is facing a “perfect storm” over coronavirus.
He said: “”If we leave it another two to four weeks, we will be back at levels we were seeing more like mid-March.
He added: “That’s clearly going to cause deaths because people will be hospitalised.”
He continued: “We have in some sense a perfect storm right now of people, as they have been told to, getting back to normal, schools reopening, a surge in cases, so therefore the testing system is under strain.”
But the announcement is also being made against a backdrop of furious criticism from Conservative backbenchers of the government’s heavy handed approach and leading party donors withholding campaign funds from the party.
Boris Johnson is announcing a £10,000 fine for those who don't isolate
People queue up outside a walk through coronavirus testing centre on Marlborough Road in Southampton
One senior Tory backbencher accused ministers and scientists of “going power mad” over coronavirus.
From September 28 the government will make it a legal duty for people to self isolate when they have been informed they have been exposed to coronavirus via the test and trace system.
Sources have said that the number of people following the instructions currently is “well below the 100 per cent level required”.
So new laws will be brought with fines for those who fail to isolate for 14 days by continuing to go to work, the shops or even the pub.
Fines will start at £1,000 and escalate to £10,000 for multiple offenders.
It comes amid claims that a spike in Bolton was caused by an individual who was supposed to self isolate going on a pub crawl.
However, for the self employed or employed who will miss out on income from the isolation period the government is going to give them £500 in cash to stay at home.
Mr Johnson said: “The best way we can fight this virus is by everyone following the rules and self-isolating if they’re at risk of passing on coronavirus. And so nobody underestimates just how important this is, new regulations will mean you are legally obliged to do so if you have the virus or have been asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace.
“People who choose to ignore the rules will face significant fines. We need to do all we can to control the spread of this virus, to prevent the most vulnerable people from becoming infected, and to protect the NHS and save lives.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
“And while most people are doing their absolute level best to comply with the rules, I don't want to see a situation where people don’t feel they are financially able to self-isolate.
“That's why we're also introducing a new £500 Test and Trace Support payment for those on low incomes who are required by NHS Test and Trace to remain at home to help stop the spread of the virus.”
Other steps will include NHS Test and Trace call handlers making regular contact with those self-isolating, with the ability to escalate any suspicion of non-compliance to Local Authorities and local police.
Police will be empowered to use their snooping resources to check compliance in highest incidence areas and in high-risk groups, based on local intelligence.
Encouraging people to identify those who are breaking the rules and report them to the authorities.
But the measures may not reassure Conservative MPs and donors who think that there “needs to be a reset” on coronavirus policy with lockdowns “causing more harm than good”.
Shipley Tory MP Philip Davies has broken ranks to go public with his criticism of the policy.
He said: “We have had a local lockdown in Bradford for more than a month and the rate is still going up. It’s clearly not working but is damaging the economy.
People experiencing coronavirus symptoms have been urged to get tested
He pointed to figures released by the government which showed that flu and pneumonia are claiming almost as many lives as coronavirus with 44,439 deaths to 51,018 between April and August.
“It’s an absolute scandal,” he said. “All these people are dying of flu despite there being a flu vaccine and the lockdown. Coronavirus is not much worse according to these figures which suggests it has been a massive overreaction.
“[Health secretary] Matt Hancock and the scientists have just gone power mad.”
The government is facing a potential rebellion if it tries to bring in another national lockdown with both new Tory MPs and veterans arguing that it will cause more harm than good.
But with crucial local government elections including mayors of London and Birmingham next year major donors are also now withholding funds.
The Sunday Express learnt that one millionaire donor publicly berated Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove when he saw him having breakfast in his club this week for costing him “millions” with the rule of six limiting how many people can meet together.
Another told the Sunday Express: “We were willing to put our money behind Boris last year but there has just been a lack of leadership in this whole affair and beyond.
“Nobody knows what this government stands for and there is clearly nobody with business experience making decisions about how to handle coronavirus.
“So all of us have decided not to give donations. We will wait and see if things improve.”