People on low incomes in UK Covid hotspots to be paid if self-isolating | World news

People on low incomes in areas with high coronavirus infection rates will be eligible for a payment of up to £182 if they have to self-isolate, the government has announced.

Under the scheme, being trialled from Tuesday in Blackburn with Darwen, Oldham and Pendle, low-paid people who test positive for Covid-19 will receive £130 for their 10-day isolation period.

This rises to £182 – or £13 a day – for people they have been in close contact with, including members of their household, who have to isolate for 14 days.

The move follows weeks of campaigning by regional mayors, councils and trade unions who said millions of people across the country could not afford to isolate without pay for a fortnight.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, had suggested that low-paid workers should be paid their full normal wage for the quarantine period, which employers would then claim back from government.

Burnham said he was pleased ministers had acknowledged the issue but that it went “nowhere near far enough” to support people. He added: “The health secretary has already said that he couldn’t live on statutory sick pay (SSP) at £95 a week. So how can an announcement like this work?

“For many workers in Greater Manchester, this will not provide the support people need to cooperate with NHS test and trace. Having belatedly acknowledged that something needs to be done, government must now accept the calls of the ‘time out to help out’ campaign and support people across the country to self-isolate on full pay.”

To be eligible for the scheme, a person must show proof of employment or self-employment, be unable to work from home, and be receiving universal credit or working tax credit.

There had been intense lobbying behind the scenes with many senior figures involved with test and trace, including its leader, Dido Harding, thought to have been sympathetic to concerns that low-paid workers could not afford to self-isolate.

It is understood the issue was raised with Cabinet Office officials last week on a visit to Oldham, where they were told that it was a huge barrier for some.