Boris Johnson has got details of his own government’s £500 self-isolation payment wrong in another coronavirus blunder.
The Prime Minister claimed the payment was worth “£500 per week” to people on low incomes – when in fact it’s worth £500 over the whole period, as long as 14 days.
It is another blunder by the PM after he wrongly claimed last week that the ‘rule of six’ doesn’t apply outdoors.
Mr Johnson also stumbled in an ITV interview when he said a woman in Wirral could meet her daughter in the park – despite previously advising against meetings anyway.
The latest stumble was over details of a £500 payment which has launched for anyone who is told to self-isolate from Monday 28 September onwards.
Up to 4million low-wage workers in England can claim the payment, as long as they are both working and on benefits.
To qualify people must be told directly to self-isolate by Test and Trace – either because they have tested positive, or because they’ve had contact with someone who did.
Hailing the payment today, Mr Johnson said people must isolate and will get “£500 if you do per week and a £10,000 fine if you don’t”.
But the payment is for the whole isolation period – 10 days for someone who is positive, or 14 for their contacts.
That means the Test and Trace Support Payment is still less than the £700 a 25-year-old would earn in two weeks on the minimum wage.
Asked why the PM didn’t know the rules, his official spokesman said: “The payment of £500 is there, it’s a lump sum and we think it is important in recognising that we’re asking people to make a sacrifice by self-isolating.
“It’s right that where they’re on lower incomes financial support should be available.”
Asked again why the PM didn’t know the rules, his spokesman said: “I think he was setting out the fact that we’ve recognising we are placing a burden on people by asking them to self-isolate.”
The spokesman added it was “right” to help with financial support.
However, the actual payment has not started at the same time as £10,000 fines. It will only begin in mid-October, and be backdated for anyone who was self-isolating from September 28 onwards.
Millions of Brits will not be eligible for the payment, instead relying on a support scheme to be run by local councils.
Mr Johnson made the comments as he was quizzed on missing coronavirus data.
Public Health England admitted they had missed 15,841 cases from their tally between September 25 and October 2.
While people were told they were positive, the cases took days to show up in official figures – and were only passed to contact-tracers by 1am on Saturday.
It’s understood the glitch was caused by officials using an outdated Excel spreadsheet format which was not capable of displaying all the lines of data.
The data was ‘Pillar 2’ data, which is overseen by the Department of Health.
Mr Johnson said: “What happened here was that some of the data got truncated and it was lost.
“But what they have done now is not only contacted all the people who were identified as having the disease – that was done in the first place – but they are now working through all the contacts as well.
“The key thing, I would say, and it goes for everybody, is that if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace then you must self-isolate, if you are told you have been in contact with somebody who has the virus.”