Everyone in England who tests positive for Covid-19 could automatically be given £500 as part of plans being considered to boost quarantine compliance.
The proposal is said to be the “preferred position” of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), according to a leaked sensitive document seen by The Guardian.
The overhaul, the paper reported, has been prompted by Government polling indicating that only 17 pe rcent of people with symptoms are coming forward for testing, while just one-in-four comply with rules to self-isolate for 10 days after testing positive and 15 per cent continue to go to work as normal.
The £500 handout scheme would cost up to £453million per week – 12 times the cost of the current system.
The Resolution Foundation, a think tank which has previously calculated that only one in eight workers qualify for the financial support currently offered to those told to self-isolate, welcomed the proposal.
Researcher Maja Gustafsson said: “The current approach is not fit for purpose with statutory sick pay among the least generous of advanced economies and far too few people eligible for the £500 support payments.
“Swiftly putting in place a much more universal and generous system will make a real difference to controlling the spread of the virus.”
The DHSC said it would not comment on a leaked paper but did not deny that blanket self-isolation payouts had been mooted.
Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News: “We have always kept it under review.
“We do need people, if they are asked to self-isolate because they have been contacted through our Test and Trace, we do need them to self-isolate.
“And, obviously, we always review the reasons why they might not.”
On the suggested payment, Mr Eustice added: “No decisions have been made on this.
“But, this is a dynamic, fast-moving situation with the pandemic.
“We are always keeping multiple policies under review.
“We have had a targeted £500 payment already for those who are on benefits to help them with the costs of staying at home when they are unable to work.”
A Government source suggested it was just one of many options being discussed as part of improving stay-at-home compliance for those who had tested positive.
A DHSC spokesperson 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 authority 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.”