There has been a slight drop in the number of people infected with coronavirus in England after lockdown measures were introduced, new figures show.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey shows an estimated one in 55 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between January 10 and 16, down from one in 50 people for the Christmas period of December 27 to January 2.
The data is from a random sample of people, including those with no symptoms, but does not include care homes, hospitals or other institutional settings.
— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) January 22, 2021
It comes after a separate study called React, from Imperial College London, found the prevalence of coronavirus across England increased by 50% between early December and the second week of January.
For that study, 143,000 volunteers were tested in England between January 6 and 15, with results showing that one in 63 people were infected.
It comes as ministers are considering paying £500 to everyone who tests positive for coronavirus to increase the number of people abiding by quarantine rules.
Environment Secretary George Eustice stressed the need for people to comply with the isolation rules when contacted by NHS Test and Trace amid concerns of low compliance.
Scientists welcomed the suggestion of more financial support but Treasury sources were adamant the plan will not go ahead, with one telling the PA news agency bluntly: “Won’t happen.”
The proposal of extending £500 payments to everyone who tests positive for Covid-19 in England, rather than just those who are on low incomes and are unable to work from home, is estimated to cost up to £453 million per week.
It is the “preferred position” of Matt Hancock’s Department of Health and Social Care, according to a leaked document seen by The Guardian.
Mr Eustice told Sky News: “We do need people, if they are asked to self-isolate because they have been contacted through our Test and Trace, we do need them to self-isolate.
“And, obviously, we always review the reasons why they might not.”
On the payment, Mr Eustice added: “No decisions have been made on this.
“We are always keeping multiple policies under review.”
There was hostility to the proposal in some parts of the Government, with one source saying the plan “incentivises people to catch Covid”.
But there was support from experts, with Professor Stephen Reicher, who is advising the Government’s coronavirus response, saying 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.”
He said a “comprehensive package of care”, including easy access to money, is “the big hole that we have to fill if we want to succeed”.