LIVID Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have slammed Matt Hancock’s “half-baked” idea to hand Brits £500 if they catch Covid – pointing to the half a billion weekly cost.
Downing Street was blindsided by last night’s leak from the Department of Health for the plan to help more people isolate if they are infectious.
But while accepting there is a problem with flouting, insiders say “this is not the solution”.
The leaked documents – which were revealed last night – have sparked fury across Government.
Allies of the Chancellor branded the £2 billion a month scheme: “Dead on arrival.”
And others claimed the idea was leaked by the Department of Health to try and bounce it into being accepted.
A No10 source said: If this was Matt’s bright idea for getting the PM to sign up for it he hasn’t been paying attention, Boris hates feeling like he is being bounced into anything.”
The proposed one-off payments for testing positive would cost a staggering £453 million a week.
It comes after a government polling found just 17 per cent of people with coronavirus symptoms are coming forward for a test.
Ministers fear low turn out is because people know they will not be able to work if they test positive and think the universal payment could reverse that, The Guardian reported.
There were also fears the proposed grant would encourage more people to go out and catch the virus – just to cash in.
It comes as:
And as it stands, only those on a low income who cannot work from home and receive one of seven means-tested benefits are eligible for the current £500 test-and-trace support payment (TTSP).
Detailed in an official policy paper, the proposal is one of four options which could expand the existing financial help, the paper said.
In a 16-page document, dated January 19 and marked “Official Sensitive”, the proposed action reads: “Anyone who tested positive for Covid-19, irrespective of their age, employment status or ability to work from home, would be eligible for TTSP.
“This would be straightforward for local authorities to administer, though it would lead to significantly greater volumes of applications than under the current scheme.”
Police could also be given access to health data to enforce quarantine under the proposals.
Professor Stephen Reicher, who is advising the Government’s coronavirus response, said universal payments to self-isolate must form an “essential element of our pandemic response”.
The Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) adviser told BBC News: “You can’t have a bureaucratic system, you can’t have a system where people don’t know whether they will get the support or not, it has to be immediate.
“The way to do that is to make it universal.”
However, this morning Environment Secretary George Eustice said he hadn’t heard of the the plans.
“I understand it was from a leaked document and I have to confess I haven’t seen it,” Mr Eustice told BBC Radio 4.
“The Government obviously constantly keeps all of these policies under review, we’ve already had £500 support payment for those on certain benefits, recognising that it’s harder for them to self-isolate. “
He added: “Whether that is something that is changed or expanded is obviously kept under review.”
The Environment Secretary added: “At the moment we are in a full lockdown anyway so while people can leave to work, in many cases people will be staying home anyway.”