People who cannot self-isolate properly at home should be given access to “free and safe accommodation”, academics have said.
An editorial published in a leading medical journal also calls for adequate income support, job protection, and replacement of caring responsibilities for those who test positive for the virus and their close contacts.
Dr Muge Cevik at the University of St Andrews and colleagues said that people need to be able to isolate “without fear of a substantial damage to their work, income, family, or caring responsibilities”.
Writing in The BMJ, the authors said that the ability to quarantine until test results are available, and to isolate if positive, depends on people having the “space and resources to do so”.
Surveys have shown that those who earn less than £20,000-a-year are less likely to self-isolate than those with higher paid jobs.
People with savings less than £100 are also less likely to be willing to self-isolate.
The polls also suggest lower rates of adherence among men, younger people, key workers, those living with dependent children, and those in lower socioeconomic groups.
The authors said that there have been many examples on how to increase adherence to quarantine rules.
These include financial security and compensation as well as practical support.
They wrote: “As vaccines are rolled out, even small improvements in people’s ability to quarantine and isolate can have an important effect on slowing transmission, hospital admission, and death, especially among those most at risk of Covid-19.
“The next phase of the public health response must align testing strategies with people’s lived realities and establish a readily accessible scheme that provides free and safe accommodation for those in need as well as adequate income support, job protection, and replacement of caring responsibilities.
“Ultimately, people need to be able to isolate without fear of a substantial damage to their work, income, family, or caring responsibilities.
“We can’t wait for vaccine mediated decreases in morbidity and mortality to manifest.
“Too many lives have been lost or destroyed. Integrating equitable support services for those most at risk for Covid-19 is a national emergency and governments should act accordingly.”