Police granted access to NHS Test and Trace contact details

Police forces in England will be able to access certain data collected by the NHS Test and Trace service, it emerged last night.

The contact details of those who have been instructed to self-isolate will be made available to officers so enforcement action can be carried out, according to guidance issued by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

The guidance, updated yesterday, now states: "If there is evidence to suggest you are not complying with the duty to self-isolate without reasonable justification, your local authority may pass this information on to local police forces to investigate further.

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"This may lead to enforcement action being taken against you which could include you being fined.

"A police force may request information relating to positive COVID-19 tests from the NHS Test & Trace programme directly, where they are investigating a report of someone who may not be complying with the mandatory self-isolation period."

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) reported that the move had alarmed some senior health officials, including the office of the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty which had "significant reservations."

According to the HSJ, some fear the move would discourage people from getting tested or downloading the Track and Trace app.

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Screen grab of the government's chief medical officer Chris Whitty speaking at a Downing Street briefing to explain how the coronavirus is spreading in the UK

Failing to self-isolate after testing positive for coronavirus could incur a fine of £1,000, increasing to a maximum of £10,000 for repeat offenders.

The Government said safeguards were in place to ensure data was shared lawfully.

A spokesman for the DHSC said: "It is a legal requirement for people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and their close contacts to self-isolate when formally notified to do so.

"The Department of Health and Social Care has agreed a memorandum of understanding with the National Police Chiefs Council to enable police forces to have access on a case-by-case basis to information that enables them to know if a specific individual has been notified to self-isolate.

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"The memorandum of understanding ensures that information is shared with appropriate safeguards and in accordance with the law. No testing or health data is shared in this process."

A National Police Chiefs' Council spokesperson said: "Policing continues to play its part in helping limit the spread of Coronavirus.

"We will continue to encourage voluntary compliance but will enforce regulations and issue FPNs (fixed penalty notices) where appropriate and necessary. Where people fail to self-isolate and refuse to comply officers can issue FPNs and direct people to return to self-isolation.

"Officers will engage with individuals to establish their circumstances, using their discretion wherever it is reasonable to do so."

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