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UK says no decision on payment for positive COVID-19 tests

LONDON — The British government has taken no decision on whether to pay 500 pounds ($683) to everyone in England who tests positive for COVID-19, environment minister George Eustice said on Friday.

Newspapers cited a policy paper which they said showed the government was considering such a move to encourage more people to take tests for the new coronavirus though it would cost 453 million pounds a week.

Studies show many people ignore instructions to self-isolate when they have contact with someone who has the virus because of the financial impact of being unable to work while quarantining for 10 days.

Some low-paid people already receive a 500-pound payment if they self-isolate. The newspaper reports said the government was considering a universal payment.

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

Eustice said the government recognized that self-isolating was “a financial challenge for some.”

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

Lockdowns are in place across the United Kingdom to try to curb the spread of the virus, but a prevalence survey suggested infections had not fallen in the first days of the new lockdown introduced in England on Jan. 5.

The government has warned people who break rules they will face punishment by police.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday it was too early to say when restrictions could be lifted, but hopes a mass vaccination program will pave a way for a return to some degree of normality by the spring.

($1 = 0.7319 pounds) (Additional reporting by William James and Alistair Smout)

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