Covid-19: Self-isolating fines 'under discussion' in Scotland

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Covid-19: Self-isolating fines 'under discussion' in Scotland

Large fines penalising those who fail to self isolate are "under discussion" in Scotland, according to the Scottish health secretary.

Jeane Freeman told Politics Scotland the issue would be "under discussion" this weekend, despite showing some resistance to the idea.

She said the policy risked "punishing" those who faced financial difficulties.

The measure will be introduced in England from 28 September with fines of up to £10,000.

The new legal duty requires people to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus, or are traced as a close contact.

On Sunday, 245 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in Scotland, which amounts to 5.4% of those tested.

No new deaths were reported and of the 63 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19, nine were in intensive care.

By comparison, 350 new cases were reported in Scotland on Saturday - the highest daily increase since May.

Ms Freeman said there was evidence to show the steep rise in cases had been "blunted" following additional measures in some local authorities in the west - but said there was still "real concern".

When asked whether the Scottish government would consider imposing similar fines in place in England, the health secretary said the issue needed to be examined "the other way round".

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"I think what you need to do is look at what are the obstacles in somebody's way who wants to self isolate, wants to do the right thing but may have difficulties in doing so.

"One of those will be financial difficulties, so there needs to be an extension to ensure that we can offer financial support before you start talking about punishing people for not doing something that they want to do."

She added that she wanted to avoid "penalising" those on "fragile, zero-hour contracts" and low wages.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has called on the Scottish government to "learn lessons" from the March lockdown and safeguard "anxious" workers.

He said: "With furlough due to end next month, Nicola Sturgeon must stop the blame game with the UK government and ensure that Scottish workers have the protections they need with a bespoke scheme that recognises the specific requirements of Scotland's economy."

'We will look at all measures'

Ms Freeman said there were already spot fines available to Police Scotland if someone "knowingly and deliberately" broke the rules.

In August, figures were revealed showing that people living in the most deprived areas were up to 12 times more likely to be given fines for flouting Covid restrictions.

Ms Freeman said: "We will look at all the measures that are there to support people to do what we're asking and any measures we think are necessary to deal with those who willingly and knowingly flout those guidelines."

She added that the Scottish government was waiting to hear whether Boris Johnson would answer its call for a four-nation Cobra meeting to discuss further measures.

However she said if this did not go ahead, the Scottish government would "take decisions at pace that are right for Scotland".

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross, who has previously taken a stand against Boris Johnson by resigning over the actions of Dominic Cummings, said he wanted to see the Scottish and UK governments work together on issues such as the furlough scheme.

He added that several industries were "still struggling" and he would be speaking to the chancellor to see what could be done for those industries.

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