FEWER than three-in-ten people quarantine at home for 14 days when asked to self-isolate, experts believe.

People are most likely to break their quarantine to go to work, buy supplies, or care for someone.

Recent research found around 29 per cent of people were following the rules to the letter – up from around 20 per cent earlier in the year.

But health psychology expert Susan Michie told the Senedd's health committee 29 per cent was "a long, long way" short of the roughly 80 per cent compliance rate "required for an effective system" of reducing coronavirus transmission.


Asked how governments could encourage more people to follow the quarantine rules, Professor Michie suggested the carrot worked better than the stick.

"Basically, financial and practical support could solve those problems," she told the Senedd committee, adding: "The overwhelming majority of people want to do the right thing."

Good intentions can sometimes be scuppered by financial realities, however.

Prof Michie said another study found that people generally wanted to self-isolate, regardless of their income. But there was evidence people in higher income groups – who can more easily work from home – were in reality more likely to quarantine effectively.

Other countries showed people quarantined better if there was more government support, she added.

New Zealand and Norway are among the nations to make daily contact with residents in self-isolation, checking whether they need any support, supplies or practical help.

"Also, other countries are providing good compensation for lost income," Prof Michie told the Senedd committee. "They regard it as a job – your job is to stay at home, and we will pay you to stay at home."

This month, the Welsh Government launched a £500 support grant for people on lower incomes who have been formally told to self-isolate. A similar scheme is in place in England and Scotland.

But Prof Michie suggested the support could be expanded.

A £500 grant for two weeks was perhaps "not enough for people to pay their rent and feed families," she told the Senedd committee.

If governments go too far in the other direction, and try to force people to quarantine through fear of severe fines, they risk causing further harm, Prof Michie said.

"Given that often the reasons are financial that people are going out, to take this punitive approach not only can be alienating and therefore undermine the 'we are all in this together' kind of solidarity approach," she said.

That could in turn have the "unintended consequence" of encouraging people to not get tested, she warned. If someone didn't want to risk being slapped with a huge fine for not self-isolating, they may be tempted to avoid getting tested and being asked to stay at home.

The Welsh Government's latest advice on self-isolation is available here (www.gov.wales/self-isolation-stay-home-guidance-households-possible-coronavirus).