Dramatic leaked proposals have suggested paying everyone in England £500 if they get coronavirus.
Government officials are thought to have drawn up the idea - which is not confirmed policy - this week over fears just one in four people who need to were self-isolating for 10 days.
Currently people forced to self-isolate - either with Covid or because a contact has it - can claim a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment.
But millions have missed out because claimants must be in work, unable to work from home and on certain benefits, and apply to their council.
Expanding the payment to everyone who tests positive is one of four options in a 16-page paper obtained by the Guardian.
The leaked report, dated Tuesday this week, describes the universal payment as the “preferred position” of the Department for Health and Social Care.
It would cost up to £453m a week if there were 60,000 cases a day - 12 times the cost of the current support scheme.
The other three options would restrict payments to people who test positive and cannot work from home (£244m a week); restrict payments to people on benefits or incomes under than £26,495 a year (£122m a week); or keep the current system but expand funding to councils.
The report also suggested ending the £500 payments for close contacts and instead giving them rapid tests to use before going to work.
And it controversially recommended giving data on people who test positive to police - despite promises to the contrary - to catch rule-breakers.
According to the Guardian, the report was prepared by DHSC for consideration at a Covid Operations Committee meeting tomorrow.
Under the universal payment, the report said: “Anyone who tested positive for Covid-19, irrespective of their age, employment status or ability to work from home, would be eligible for TTSP.
“This would be straightforward for local authorities to administer, though it would lead to significantly greater volumes of applications than under the current scheme.”
Cabinet Office polling reportedly indicated only 17% of people with symptoms were coming forward for testing, while a separate survey for DHSC suggested only one in four people reported compliance with self-isolation, with 15% going to work as normal.
The DHSC did not deny the veracity of the leaked document. A spokeswoman said: “We are in one of the toughest moments of this pandemic and it is incumbent on all of us to help protect the NHS by staying at home and following the rules.
“All local authorities costs for administering the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme are covered by the Government, and each authority is empowered to make discretionary payments outside of the scheme. £50 million was invested when the scheme launched, and we are providing a further £20 million to help support people on low incomes who need to self-isolate.
“We also recognise the impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health and wellbeing which is why mental health services have remained open throughout the pandemic.”
Critics have warned for months that not enough people get the £500 payment, leaving them to choose between keeping people safe and earning a living.
But Priti Patel tonight chose to focus on a “small minority” who deliberately flout the rules by holding gatherings and parties.
The Home Secretary told the No10 press conference: “The science is clear - such irresponsible behaviour poses a significant threat to public health.”