Local lockdown meeting as Government confirms payment scheme for self-isolation
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Officials will meet on Thursday to decide whether local lockdowns should continue in England, as the Government confirmed it will compensate those who have to self isolate with payments of up to £182.
The next announcement on restrictions in parts of Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and west Yorkshire is due to take place after a meeting on Thursday of the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), chaired by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.
Last week Mr Hancock announced a more targeted approach to restrictions, in which the views of MPs would also be sought to gain “the maximum possible local consensus”.
People living in specific wards in Pendle and Blackburn in Lancashire, along with the borough of Oldham, Greater Manchester, were told not to socialise with anyone outside their household from midnight on Saturday, and only to use public transport if essential.
The meeting comes as Mr Hancock confirmed that as of Tuesday September 1, people on either Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit, who are required to self-isolate and are unable to work from home, in areas with high incidences of Covid-19, will benefit from a new payment scheme.
Starting with a trial in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle and Oldham, eligible people who test positive for the virus will receive £130 for their 10-day period of self-isolation.
Other members of their household, who under the current rules have to self-isolate for 14 days, will be entitled to a payment of £182.
My position is clear; these restrictions are confusing and are not working
Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s shadow chancellor, said: “Labour has been warning for months that the Government needs to make sure that people can afford to do the right thing, but once again ministers have taken far too long to realise there’s a problem.”
She added: “It’s concerning that this will only apply to a limited number of areas with high rates of Covid-19.
“The instruction to self-isolate applies to everyone in the country, so everyone should get the support they need to self-isolate.”
The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “I am pleased they have at last acknowledged this issue but am sorry to say this move goes nowhere near far enough.
“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.”
Meanwhile, the leader of Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire said the restrictions in place are “confusing” and urged the Government to lift restrictions for the whole of Kirklees.
Shabir Pandor said: “My position is clear, these restrictions are confusing and are not working.
“We can bring our rates down without them in place. We understand our communities and we will continue with the great work we’re doing on the ground to target areas in Kirklees with higher rates, making sure people have all the information and support they need to stay safe and prevent infection.
“The current restrictions are keeping us from visiting our friends and families in a safe way.
“How is it right that you can go to a pub or restaurant that is full of people you don’t know, but you cannot visit a relative in their garden?”
There will also be concern among thousands of holidaymakers who could have to self-isolate on their return from Czech Republic and Switzerland.
A seven-day rate of 20 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people is the threshold above which the UK Government considers triggering quarantine conditions.
The Czech Republic is currently recording a seven-day rate of 19.4 cases per 100,000, up from 16 a week ago.
Switzerland is also over the threshold, with a seven-day rate of 21.2.
Last week, Scotland took Switzerland off its list of countries from which people do not need to self-isolate on arrival.
The rest of the UK could follow later this week.
On Wednesday, a school leaders’ union recommended all secondary schools ask pupils and staff to wear face coverings in communal spaces, despite the Government advising it is only required for those in local lockdown areas of England.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said ministers were following the “best scientific and medical advice”, adding that it was not necessary for face coverings to be mandatory in all schools across the country.