British police forces have been granted access to details of people who have been told to self-isolate under the government’s ‘test and trace’ system, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said late on Saturday.
A spokesman for the department said it agreed with the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) that officers could have access on a case-by-case basis to information on whether 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,” the spokesman said in an emailed statement.
The development was reported earlier by Sky News, which also cited an NPCC statement saying police will continue encouraging voluntary compliance but will enforce regulations and issue fixed penalty notices (FPN) when needed.
“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,” the NPCC statement said.
The test and trace system, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised would be world beating, has seen setbacks including a glitch identified earlier this month that delayed the upload of nearly 16,000 cases into computer systems, including for contact tracers.
In recent weeks, the COVID-19 infection rate has risen sharply in Britain with an accelerating second wave, prompting Johnson and other regional leaders to introduce tighter restrictions and local lockdowns.
Britain has one of the highest death rates from the virus in Europe and previously suffered the worst economic contraction of any leading nation from the outbreak.