UK government figures have been quick to downplay the policy, which would cost an estimated £453m per week, arguing that the proposal was drawn up by officials but has not yet been approved by Prime Minister Johnson.
British Journalist David Lindsay discussed the idea and the UK’s overall response to the COVID pandemic with Sputnik.
Sputnik: How effective will this new proposal be in encouraging people to self-isolate, and are there any obvious problems with it?
David Lindsay: Well, the obvious problem is the openness to fraud of course but beyond that, I'm not entirely sure this would work at all. I really don't. If people are genuinely feeling ill, if they genuinely are ill, and I've been very ill indeed in my time as most people have, they don't need £500 to stay in the house. Being ill is enough.
Sputnik: Okay, what other policies should the government be adopting, on the back of the record amounts of deaths the country suffered this week, if this policy isn't the right one?
David Lindsay: Well, I mean the figures this week are absolutely horrendous and really, the government needs to review its entire strategy and say that, and except/concede, that it was wrong to lift the first lockdown as early as it did, which was in response to media pressure that it should have been strong enough to ignore, and say that there's going to be a firm lockdown really at least until Easter. It will use its currency-issuing powers to issue the money to cover the economic cost of that which no one disputes, and that this will be a transition towards the universal basic income on a permanent basis instead of a £500 payment just for being ill. That is what it should be looking at, taking this opportunity for a complete restructuring of the welfare system in this country, and in the meantime, a full, strongly enforced lockdown, until this matter is under control because it certainly isn't a moment. That of course, is assisted by the fact that the vaccination programme is now rolling out, and that is very much to be welcomed. Until we have achieved the necessary level of vaccination, we are going to have to bear the cost, and the cost is considerable and is not rather gimmicky measures like paying people £500.
Sputnik: And at this moment in time, how likely is it that the government will reach its target of returning to normality by the summer, and offering a first COVID job to every citizen by September 2021?
David Lindsay: I hope they do and I think it's within the realms of possibility to do it, but I'm afraid the previous record of this government up to now does not inspire confidence. It can be done but whether they can do it is a different question.
Sputnik: And on the subject of confidence in the government, will we see Boris Johnson and the government resign on the back of their failings if they fail to reach the targets they set earlier in 2020?
David Lindsay: Oh, yes. I mean, I will be making such calls myself, and I certainly believe that they will be widespread in the media and in the public. It's a different matter whether or not they would do it but yes, I think we are heading towards a situation where that becomes a very strong body of public and opinion forming. Yes.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.