People who have been instructed to self-isolate will have their personal details shared with police – but concerns have been raised that the move could put people off getting tested.
Police forces across the country will be able to access data about people ‘on a case-by-case’ basis via NHS Test and Trace, so they can find out if a person has been told to self-isolate, he Department of Health and Social Care (DHCS) said.
Those who not self-isolate after testing positive for the virus are committing a criminal offence in England and face a fine of £1,000, while repeat offenders could receive penalties of up to £10,000. The fines also apply to close contacts of a person who has tested positive.
It comes as the DHSC updated its online guidance on Friday about how coronavirus testing data will be handled.
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It said people who fail to self-isolate ‘without reasonable justification’ could have their name, address and contact details passed on to their local authority and then to the police, the DHSC’s website said.
The guidance read: ‘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.’
Anyone who has received a positive result must isolate for 10 days after displaying symptoms, or for the same period after receiving their result if they are asymptomatic.
However, members of their household or close contacts must isolate for 14 days.
But England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, is concerned the move will stop people from getting tested, reports the Health Service Journal (HSJ).
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said ministers should ‘reverse the policy urgently’.
He said: ‘Ministers’ decision to allow people’s Covid test data to be shared with the police is a huge mistake.
‘Anything that further undermines the public’s dwindling trust in this Government’s handling of the pandemic is damaging, and few things could have been better designed to do that, than this.’
Sir Ed added: ‘Asking our already overstretched police service to take on this task is both self-defeating and a serious misjudgment.’
The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors in the UK, said that the test and trace system needs the ‘full confidence of the public’ to be effective.
A BMA spokesman said: ‘We are already concerned that some people are deterred from being tested because they are anxious about loss of income should they need to self-isolate – and we are worried should police involvement add to this.’
A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesperson said forces will continue to ‘encourage voluntary compliance’ but will hand out fines ‘where appropriate and necessary’.
They added: ‘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.’
A DHSC spokesperson 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.
‘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.’
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