A group of academics and scientists have written to Stormont's Department for Communities calling for more financial support for those on low incomes to help drive down Covid rates.
Members of the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group (ISAG) said that the success of the find, test, trace and isolate scheme is key to keeping virus cases low, however a matter of concern is compliance with isolation rules.
They said UK-wide data suggests isolation rates are low and one key reason is a lack of appropriate financial and social support.
Currently, those required to self-isolate can apply for Discretionary Support Self-Isolation grants, which provide a payment of around £500 to those on a low income who are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of having to self-isolate.
Recent data, however, shows that just 2% of applicants in Northern Ireland received a payment of £500 or more.
Stormont's communities department (DfC) also had to recently return a £2m underspend from the Discretionary Support Isolation Grant scheme to the Department of Finance, something which ISAG claims suggests that the scheme is "not as accessible as it should be".
"Many essential workers can't afford not to go into work, so may avoid testing or revealing close contacts," ISAG said in their letter. "This puts other essential workers, customers and household members at a higher risk, and risks prolonging the need for restrictions and further damaging the economy."
The letter, signed by academics including Queen's University virologists Dr Connor Bamford and Professor Ultan Power; Ulster University law lecturer Ciara Fitzpatrick and community sector organisations including the Law Centre NI, said more support must be provided to "ensure the success of the vaccination strategy and put an end to the continually cycling in and out of lockdown".
They said the payments should no longer be discretionary, but rather an automatic payment of £400 per week should be made to individual applicants in a household who meet certain criteria, including their annual income being no more than £28,000 and they provide evidence that they are required to self-isolate or someone in their household is and they have to care for them.
"Given the significant costs of restrictions this makes economic sense," the letter reads.
"Implementing a more robust system of financial support, which provides effective and expedient support, will result in a reduced infection rate and as a consequence, a reduction in people who will need financial support, including a reduction in the need for business support and furlough."
"We are calling for the government to take urgent action and implement these measures without delay."
A DfC spokesperson said: "The Department continues to assess the effectiveness of all emergency Covid support measures."