Covid sufferers could be fined up to £10,000 if they leave their house when they are meant to be self-isolating under draconian new rules being introduced by Boris Johnson.
With his Ministers locked in debate this weekend over whether to introduce a second lockdown that would devastate the economy, the Prime Minister announced that he was creating a new legal duty for people to self-isolate if they test positive for the virus or are told to do so by Test and Trace staff.
Under a ‘carrot and stick’ approach, 4 million people on low incomes who cannot work from home will receive a £500 lump sum if forced to self-isolate.
Covid sufferers could be fined up to £10,000 if they leave their house when they are meant to be self-isolating under draconian new rules being introduced by Boris Johnson. Pictured: People visit Stables Market in Camden, London, earlier today
The Prime Minister announced that he was creating a new legal duty for people to self-isolate if they test positive for the virus. Pictured: People wandering through Stables Market earlier today
A sharp rise in the number of cases over recent weeks has triggered alarm in Downing Street. Pictured: Prime Minister Boris Johnson
But fines for those breaching the rules, which come into effect a week tomorrow, will start at £1,000 – rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders and ‘the most egregious breaches’, which would include business owners who threaten self-isolating staff with redundancy if they do not come to work.
A sharp rise in the number of cases over recent weeks has triggered alarm in Downing Street, with the Government’s scientific advisers pushing for a ‘circuit breaking’ second lockdown – but Ministers led by Chancellor Rishi Sunak are warning of the devastating economic impact.
A No 10 source admitted last night: ‘It’s not looking good.’
In a carefully choreographed move, the advisers, including Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, are expected to release data showing the rise in cases at a public event tomorrow.
Mr Johnson could then make a televised appearance on Tuesday to set out new measures.
The extent, and the duration, of the new rules are still being discussed by Ministers, but are likely to include a nationwide curfew on pubs and a ban on the mixing of households.
The development came as:
- The number of daily cases reached 4,422, the highest level since early May, with scientists fearing that infections are growing between two and seven per cent each day, with a national R rate between 1.1 and 1.4;
- Sources said that Mr Whitty was on ‘resignation watch’ over fears he may quit if Ministers resist his calls for tougher restrictions – but Mr Johnson is said to be in Whitty’s ‘grip’;
- Supermarkets ran out of online delivery slots as the spectre of a second national lockdown prompted fears of panic buying, as Morrisons introduced limits on the number of shoppers across its 500 supermarkets for the first time since the height of the pandemic in March;
- Hospitality industry leaders warned they faced ‘economic disaster’ from a second lockdown with one in five of their venues – rising to a third in London – still closed and 900,000 employees on the Treasury furlough scheme which runs out at the end of October;
- No 10 reacted angrily to a ‘brutal and personal’ report in The Times claiming that Mr Johnson was miserable and short of money;
- Mr Sunak called for tough measures to balance the Treasury’s books in the wake of the Covid crisis, including a freeze on benefits and public sector pay, as officials mocked Mr Johnson’s ‘Operation Moonshot’ plan for mass testing as ‘Operation Moonf***’;
- Anti-vaccine protesters clashed with police in London; leading to 32 arrests;
- A third of the people recorded to have died from Covid in July and August may actually have passed away due to other causes, researchers at Oxford University suggested;
- The British Medical Association called on the Government to consider further tightening rules about who can meet, in the wake of the rise in daily cases.
Under a ‘carrot and stick’ approach, 4 million people on low incomes who cannot work from home will receive a £500 lump sum if forced to self-isolate. Pictured: People sit on a terrace enjoying the weather in London today
The Prime Minister said last night: ‘The best way we can fight this virus is by everyone following the rules and self-isolating if they’re 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.
‘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 and save lives’.
Under the new rules, Test and Trace call handlers will make regular contact with those self-isolating and will pass on suspicions about those breaking the rules to local authorities and the police.
But one Government adviser, Professor Robert Dingwall, argued that it would be premature to reintroduce tougher measures, especially as existing rules have become ‘unenforceable’ because people do not buy into the spirit of the restrictions.
Under the new rules, Test and Trace call handlers will make regular contact with those self-isolating and will pass on suspicions about those breaking the rules to local authorities and the police. Pictured: Members of the public sit outside a cafe in southwest London today
People in southwest London made the most of the good weather today to visit cafes and sit outside in the sun
‘There is a sense among some of the scientific advisers that the Government is perhaps jumping the gun,’ he said.
‘It’s a bit premature to say that we’re on this exponential growth curve when we may just be drifting up to a stable situation at a slightly higher level than we were a few weeks ago, which you would expect with the re-opening of the economy.’
Prof Dingwall also asked whether ‘we are drifting towards a situation where people are quite comfortable with the idea that 20,000 people will die every year from Covid as we are comfortable with the idea that 20,000 people will die every year from influenza. And we shrug our shoulders and get on with our lives.
‘We need to be having more of a national conversation that starts from the lives of ordinary people and what is practical to achieve, and what the costs of these measures are.’