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£500 Cash for COVID? UK says no decision on reported plan for positive tests

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s environment minister said on Friday no decision had been taken on plans to give everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 a payment after newspapers reported people could be given 500 pounds ($683.75) to incentivise them to take tests.

Newspapers said the government was considering the plan in England because surveys suggested that some people with symptoms were not taking tests because lower paid workers did not want to self-isolate if they were positive and so be unable to work.

Currently, only some people receiving welfare benefits receive a 500 pound payment if they are told to self-isolate, but according to an official policy paper seen by the Guardian newspaper and others, ministers were looking at making this a universal payment to all who tested positive.

This would cost up to 453 million pounds a week, 12 times the cost of the current system, the Guardian said.

“I’m not going to comment on this particular paper but we’ve always kept it under review,” said minister George Eustice. “No decisions to be made on this, but this is a dynamic fast moving situation with the pandemic.”

Surveys have indicated that only a small proportion of people with COVID symptoms were coming forward for tests while many others ignored instructions to self-isolate because of the financial impact of quarantining.

Britain saw a surge in cases at the end of last year, fuelled by a new highly-transmissible strain of the virus, which has put the health service under extreme pressure. On Thursday, it recorded 37,892 new cases with 1,290 deaths.

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