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Dido Harding Admits 20,000 People A Day Are Ignoring Calls By NHS Test And Trace To Self-Isolate

3 min read

The head of NHS Test and Trace has admitted at least 20,000 people every day are believed not to be self-isolating when they are told to.

Giving evidence to the Commons science and technology committe this morning, Baroness Harding admitted that around 20% of people who contact tracers get hold of do not agree to self-quarantine in their house, raising concerns about the effectiveness of the system.

Asked about the issue Number 10 has repeatedly said it is only a “very small” number of people ignoring the advice, but she revealed today that was not the case.

Baroness Harding concluded if you take last week's total number of cases and contacts, around 100,000 per day, 20,000 of those are not isolating.

Under questioning from the committee chair, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, she said: "Could I add a slight complexity to your calculation, which actually might well make your number go up a bit, which is that's the proportion that we know about.

"My biggest concern about people not isolating is not actually the 20% of people, let's say, who are not following that instruction.”

People who do not self-isolate risk substantial fines for doing so, starting at £1,000 and up to £10,000 for repeat offences and the most serious breaches, including for those preventing others from self-isolating.

Baroness Harding, who is also interim executive chair at the National Institute for Health Protection, said her biggest concern is the people who feel ill but do not come forward for testing.

In response Mr Hunt said: "Thousands of people every day is enough to restart the pandemic."

Asked why people are not isolating when they are told to, she said there are issues with communication, practical barriers, financial problems and mental health.

Explaining some still do not understand the rules and the system, she told MPs: "The clearer and simpler the guidance, the easier is it for people to follow it."

Baroness Harding said others find it "practically impossible" to isolate for an extended period, but added: "Across the country, local authorities have been doing some fantastic work in providing practical support, either directly or through voluntary groups and other third-sector providers.”

She also said people cannot afford to isolate and must still go out to work, and it would need to be the case that any financial incentives in place "genuinely drives the right behaviour, rather than any unforeseen consequences".

Those on lower incomes who cannot work from home are eligible for a £500 'Test and Trace Support Payment', but there has been criticism over the support available for those self-isolating.

She believed others find it "really difficult and hard” to isolate themselves from a mental point of view, and admitted there is "undoubtedly more we can do" to help people cope with those challenges.

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