An official government document released at the end of August stated that “the rate of self-isolation and quarantine for those that test positive [is] currently estimated to be <20% fully adherent.”

Many of us will be aware of the many bizarre rules that now govern our lives, from the rule of six to the one-way systems in workplaces. But none of this is much help if 4 out of 5 people who are infected or highly likely to be infected are out and about, mixing with others and spreading the virus.

If the government believe over 80% infected or probably infected people are breaking isolation and spreading infection to everyone else, why are they not doing anything about it?

Compliance with most Covid measures is much higher that 20%. For example, the Office for National Statistics found that 61% of people wore a face covering when they went out in public. A major part of this lack of compliance with the isolation guidelines must be that millions of people cannot afford to take time off work on £95.85 a week Statutory Sick Pay.

The government are aware of this and it is the reason they introduced isolation pay for outsourced workers in the NHS in March 2020 and (in a partial way) in the care sector in June 2020. They must also be aware that the devolved administrations have heavily criticised SSP and that lack of sick pay has been a factor in local outbreaks in the North Wales meat factories and elsewhere. The government must also know that SSP was described by the Council of Europe as “woefully inadequate”, that it is the most miserly sickness benefit system in the OECD by a long way.

If the government were serious about improving compliance with their isolation strategy and serious about slowing the spread of the virus then they would organise to ensure all workers could isolate on full pay.

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