Flouting self-isolation rules could be punishable with a fine under new rules reportedly being considered by ministers in a bid to stem rising coronavirus infections.
Ministers have also discussed establish a hotline for reporting breaches of requirements for people identified as at risk of carrying Covid-19, a cabinet source told The Times.
Police forces have already been given the power to issue £1,000 fines to anyone flouts the 14-day quarantine order after arriving in the nation from a country with high rates of the virus.
The idea of expanding the threat of fines to people who have symptoms or who have been in contact with an infected person is said to be at an “exploratory” stage.
But is unclear how readily such measures would be enforced if introduced, with only 34 people fined for breaking post-travel quarantines since the measure was introduced.
Police officers have also warned they do not have the capacity to enforce the new “rule of six” restrictions being introduced from Monday.
The government’s plan is reportedly part of a “carrot and stick approach” that will also include larger payments for those forced to stay at home. Last month the health secretary Matt Hancock was forced to defend the government’s planned payment to isolating citizens, which in some instances was equivalent to just £13 a day.
Responding to the Times report, Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called on the government to offer better financial backing for those isolating.
He wrote on Twitter: “How about offer those who need to isolate but in fear of losing jobs or wages proper financial security & support?”
The prospect of the new fines comes amid concern the nation is in the grip of a national spike in cases after a total of 3,539 new infections were recorded on Friday - the highest daily figure since May.
Public Health England’s medical director Professor Yvonne Doyle warned the increased daily cases served as a reminder of the “ongoing risk as the virus spreads throughout the UK”.
She said: “Although younger people continue to make up the greatest share of new cases, we’re now starting to see worrying signs of infections occurring in the elderly, who are at far higher risk of getting seriously ill.
“People should continue to follow social distancing rules, wash their hands regularly and wear a face covering in enclosed spaces. You should not mix with others when unwell.”