Hefty fines for COVID-19 quarantine breaches in England

 thehindu.com  09/20/2020 10:23:08 

The U.K. government on Sunday announced new rules, which make it a legal requirement for people with coronavirus to quarantine, with fines of up to 10,000 pounds imposed on repeat breaches of the stipulated 14-day self-isolation period to control the spread of the virus.

Downing Street said the new requirements, which will be enforced from September 28, also come with support payments of 500 pounds for those on lower incomes who cannot work from home, such as construction workers, and stand to lose income as a result of the mandatory self-isolation.

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The rules come in as Prime Minister Boris Johnson considers further tougher measures after he warned that the U.K. may now be seeing a second wave coming in of the deadly virus, with the number of cases continuing to rise.

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 (National Health Service) and save lives, said Mr. Johnson.

And while most people are doing their absolute level best to comply with the rules, I dont want to see a situation where people dont feel they are financially able to self-isolate. Thats why were also introducing a new GBP 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, he said.

New fines for those breaching self-isolation rules will start at 1,000 pounds  bringing this in line with the penalty for breaking quarantine after international travel  but could increase to up to 10,000 pounds for repeat offences and for the most egregious breaches, including for those preventing others from self-isolating.

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For example, this could include business owners who threaten self-isolating staff with redundancy if they do not come to work, sending a clear message that this is now punishable by law.

The best way we can fight this virus is by everyone following the rules and self-isolating if theyre 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, Johnson said.

Just under 4 million people who are in receipt of benefits in England will be eligible for the new Test and Trace Support payment.

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Downing Street said that local authorities across England will be working to set up these self-isolation support schemes and it is expected that they will be in place by October 12. Those who start to self-isolate from September 28 will receive backdated payments once the scheme is set up in their local authority.

The one-off payment of 500 pounds is above the countrys statutory sick pay of 95.85 pounds per week and a previously-announced additional award of 182 pounds for those told to self-isolate in highest risk areas of intervention or areas under localised lockdowns.

A number of steps will be taken as part of the new legally-enforceable quarantine rules, including NHS Test and Trace call handlers making regular contact with those self-isolating and escalating any suspicion of non-compliance to Local Authorities and local police.

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Police resources will be used to check compliance in highest incidence areas and in high-risk groups, based on local intelligence. High-profile and egregious cases of non-compliance will be investigated and prosecuted. Action will be taken on instances where third parties have identified others who have tested positive but are not self-isolating.

The U.K. government says it hopes the new measures will be replicated in the devolved regions of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have the authority to set their own coronavirus rules but largely follow government guidelines.

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The latest set of tougher measures are announced as a further 4,422 new COVID-19 cases and 27 deaths were reported in the U.K. as of Saturday. The number of infections has been on the rise for a few weeks now, with the R number  or the number of people an infected person will pass the virus on to  rising to between 1.1 and 1.4, well beyond the outer threshold of one.

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