New fines for not self-isolating come into force

Joe Gammie, PA

People across England will be legally required to self-isolate from this week if they test positive for coronavirus or are contacted by the test and trace service or risk being hit with new fines.

The legal duty to self-isolate comes into force on Monday – with fines starting at £1,000 and increasing up to £10,000 for repeat offenders or serious breaches, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

People who have received a positive test must isolate for 10 days after displaying symptoms or their test date if they do not have symptoms, while members of their household must isolate for 14 days.

The DHSC also said that police resources will be used to check compliance in the highest incidence areas and in high-risk groups based on “local intelligence”.

But people on low incomes who cannot work from home and have lost income as a result will also be eligible for a new £500 test and trace support payment, it added.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government will “not hesitate” to introduce further measures if case numbers continue to rise.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He added: “Anyone can catch coronavirus and anyone can spread it.

“We all have a crucial part to play in keeping the number of new infections down and protecting our loved ones.

“As cases rise it is imperative we take action, and we are introducing a legal duty to self-isolate when told to do so, with fines for breaches and a new £500 support payment for those on lower incomes who can’t work from home while they are self-isolating.

“These simple steps can make a huge difference to reduce the spread of the virus, but we will not hesitate to put in place further measures if cases continue to rise.”

Local authorities will be working to set up test and trace support payment schemes, and the DHSC said it expected these to be in place by October 12.

If eligible, people told to self-isolate from Monday will receive backdated payments once the scheme is set up in their local authority, the department added.

Just under four million people who are in receipt of benefits in England will be eligible for this payment, it said.

The DHSC said a number of other measures will be taken to ensure people comply with the rules including NHS Test and Trace call handlers increasing contact with people self-isolating.

High profile and “egregious” cases of non-compliance will be investigated and prosecuted while action will be taken on tip-offs from “third parties” about people who have tested positive but are not self-isolating, the DHSC said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “These new measures are about saving lives.

“Everyone must take personal responsibility and self-isolate if they test positive or if told to do so by NHS Test and Trace.

“For those who fail to do so, the police will enforce the law.

“These new fines are a clear sign that we will not allow those who break the rules to reverse the hard-won progress made by the law-abiding majority.”