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This is a fast-moving area and the paper should be read as correct at the time of publication (12.03.2021).

The requirement to self-isolate

Since February, the UK Government has had guidance saying those showing symptoms of COVID-19 and those in their household should self-isolate for a certain period.

On 28 September the Government introduced a new legal requirement to self-isolate for anyone who has been notified that they have tested positive for COVID-19 or anyone who has been notified that they were in close contact with a person who has tested positive. The legislation only applies to England, although there is also similar legislation in Wales.

A person who is required to self-isolate must remain at a specified address (usually their home) for 10 days. They can only leave their home in limited circumstances.

It is a criminal offence for a person to fail to self-isolate. Fines begin at £1,000 for the first offence and £4,000 if a person breached self-isolation, had reason to believe they would come into close contact with someone and were reckless as to the consequences.

Test and Trace Support Payments

On 20 September the Government announced a new £500 lump sum ‘Test and Trace Support Payment’ for people on low incomes required to self-isolate, who cannot work during their self-isolation period. This followed an earlier announcement of pilots for a new scheme providing payments of up to £182 for people in areas with high COVID-19 rates who are required to self-isolate. The Test and Trace Support Payment supersedes these plans.

To qualify for a Test and Trace Support Payment, a person must be employed or self-employed, and must normally be receiving certain benefits or tax credits. The Government estimates that just under 4 million people will be eligible for the Payment. Local authorities administer the scheme, on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care.

The scheme applies in England only, although both the Scottish and Welsh Governments have announced similar schemes. In Northern Ireland, people can apply for a non-repayable Discretionary Support self-isolation grant if they are on a low income and are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of being told to self-isolate.

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