Matt Hancock has announced that workers on low income salaries who are forced to self-isolate will be given £500 to help them do so.
The payment will be made to anyone who cannot work because they have tested positive for coronavirus or have been asked to self-isolate through NHS Test and Trace.
It will apply directly in England, and the UK Government will be providing funding through the Barnett formula to the devolved administrations so that similar support can be offered to people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the health secretary said.
“Now I know that self isolation can be tough for many people, especially if you’re not in a position to work from home”, he said in a statement to Parliament.
“And I don’t want anyone having to worry about their finances while they’re doing the right thing.”
Self isolation is “primary way that we together, break the chains of transmission”, Hancock added.
He warned that if the current trajectory of infections were to continue, the UK could experience 50,000 cases a day by mid October.
“There can be no doubt that this virus is accelerating must all play our part in stopping the spread”, he said.
Hancock also proposed fines of up to £10,000 for those who do not follow self-isolation rules.
“We’re therefore proposing a new legal duty to self isolate again for people who test positive, or who are asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace.
“This is backed by fines of up to £10,000 for repeat offences and serious breaches will step up enforcement to NHS Test and Trace will make regular checks on those who are self isolating and will crack down on employers who try to prevent staff from following the rules.”
New testing rules laid out
Ministers have been under fire recently after it emerged that there was a worrying shortage of coronavirus tests available.
Although testing capacity has reached a new high at 253,521, Hancock acknowledged that there had also been a rise in demand.
To counter this, he said that the government would now “prioritise the tests for those who need them the most to save lives, protect the most vulnerable and make sure our health and care services and our schools can operate safely”.
Tests will first be given to support acute clinical care, then to care homes and NHS staff.
After that, tests will be reserved for “targeted outbreaks”, as well as teachers and school staff.
Only members of the general public who have symptoms of coronavirus or have specifically been told to take a test should do so.
Hancock also announced that stronger restrictions would be brought in from Tuesday in parts of Lancashire, Merseyside and Warrington.
He said: “In the summer when the virus was in retreat we were able to relax some of the measures we had put in place, now the virus is spreading once more, I have to act.”
Boris Johnson will address the Commons with further updates tomorrow, with a wider national lockdown widely expected.