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People who have been told to self-isolate through NHS test and trace could have their contact details passed to police, a move some fear could deter people from being tested for coronavirus.
Police forces will be able to access information about people “on a case-by-case” basis, so they can learn whether an individual has been told to self-isolate, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHCS) said.
England made it a legal requirement for people to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus. Those who fail to do so face fines starting at £1,000, while repeat offenders or those committing serious breaches could receive fines of up to £10,000, according to the DHSC.
The department updated its online guidance on Friday about how coronavirus testing data will be handled.
People who fail to self-isolate “without reasonable justification” could have their name, address and contact details passed to their local authority and then to the police, the DHSC’s website said.
“This may lead to enforcement action being taken against you, which could include you being fined,” the online guidance said.
“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 office of England’s chief medical officer, professor Chris Whitty, voiced concerns that the move would discourage people from being tested for the virus, the Health Service Journal reported.
People who have received a positive test must isolate for 10 days after displaying symptoms or their test date if they do not have symptoms, while other members of their household have to isolate for 14 days.
Privacy campaigners launched a legal challenge to the NHS’s coronavirus test-and-trace programme at the end of May, as concerns grew about personally identifiable data being subsequently obtained by the Home Office or other government departments for immigration or other purposes.
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.”
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.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Police get access to people told to self-isolate by NHS test and trace | World news