The Government could spend up to £170million of taxpayers’ money on shopping vouchers as it tries to convince people to take part in coronavirus testing.
Anyone picked to get a test as part of a nationwide study tracking the pandemic is being compensated with vouchers that can be spent on Amazon or in high street stores.
The Office for National Statistics study has become an invaluable source of information for those studying the pandemic.
With a second wave of infections now taking hold across the UK, the organisation has announced plans to recruit 400,000 more volunteers to take part.
But some have raised concerns about the rising costs of the study, and say people would be happy to do it for free.
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Conservative MP Matt Vickers told The Sun: ‘You’d have thought people would do such tests without a fee. But if they are to be paid, vouchers should only be spent on the high street.’
Participants in the study are given a £50 voucher for their first test and £25 vouchers for subsequent tests.
People can sign up to be tested once a week for four weeks and then once a month for 11 months thereafter and could rake in £425 in total. If all the participants stay the distance, the final bill will be £170 million.
The tests are used to judge how many people may have the virus at any one time and whether they have symptoms or not.
Recent weeks have shown rising numbers of infections, in line with other measures being used to track the pandemic.
It also allows the ONS to study other factors including which towns and cities are seeing the fastest rates of infection and what age groups are being most heavily impacted.
Households are being chosen at random to take part and will receive a letter in the post inviting them to sign up.
An ONS spokesperson told The Sun: ‘The real value of that knowledge is likely to vastly exceed the financial cost of the study itself.’
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