Fixing self isolation support is essential to beat Covid

The vaccine rollout has brought a great sense of hope that the end is in sight, but it can only do so much so quickly.

Tuesday, 2nd February 2021, 8:58 am
Updated Tuesday, 2nd February 2021, 8:59 am
Lord Paul Scriven was leader of Sheffield City Council, 2008-11.

Even as the Government talks about a plan to ease lockdown, we must not kid ourselves. We will live with Covid for years to come.

We will see new variants and outbreaks. We still need to prevent hospitalisations and the debilitating effects of long Covid.

No magic wand exists and Government needs to think through how we avoid mass lockdowns in the future. As other countries have shown, the UK needs an effective test, trace and isolate system.

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Can you afford to do as you're told? (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

For many in Sheffield, though, it is an extremely difficult decision to self-isolate.

Everyone wants to play their part and not pass the virus on, but when sick pay is so low and Government support is hard to access it creates an impossible choice. Do you self-isolate or put food on the table?

Others living in over-crowded housing do not have the space to isolate. Those with caring responsibilities simply cannot.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said: “Self-isolation is perhaps the most important part of social distancing.”

But this claim is hollow when the Government’s self-isolation system is so inadequate.

In Taiwan, 99 per cent of people stick to self-isolation rules. In the UK? 62 per cent.

The difference is the resources that Taiwan and other countries give their citizens. People are supported throughout isolation. In some places they even receive a bonus for fulfilling public duty.

The UK should follow these countries’ lead. It is clear what works so let’s do it.

The Government should be providing full salary and a bonus for self-isolating. If you don’t have the space, you should get a free hotel room. And if you’re a carer then you should be given all the support you need to ensure your loved one is not deprived of care.

It is far more economical to break the chains of transmission by enabling people to follow the rules than an endless cycle of lockdowns.

Everyone wants to play their part in ending this pandemic and slowing the spread of this terrible disease. The Government needs to empower those struggling to do the right thing.