Police were given access to data on people told by the British government system to isolate themselves

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FILE PHOTO: An employee walks past a sign as people queue in front of a testing center, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Southend-on-sea, UK, September 17, 2020. REUTERS / John Sibley

(Reuters) – British police have been given access to details of people who were told to isolate themselves under the government’s ‘test and trace’ system, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said late Saturday.

A spokesperson for the department said it had agreed with the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) that officers could have access to information on a case-by-case basis as to whether a specific individual has been signed up to isolate themselves.

“The Memorandum of Understanding ensures that information is shared with appropriate safeguards and in accordance with the law. No test or health data is shared in this process, ”the spokesperson said in an email statement.

The development was previously reported by Sky News, which also quoted an NPCC statement saying that police will continue to encourage voluntary compliance, but enforce regulations and issue fixed fine notices (FPN) if necessary.

“Where people don’t isolate themselves and refuse to comply, agents can issue FPNs and order people to return to self-isolation. Officers will consult with individuals to determine their circumstances, in their sole discretion where reasonable, ”the NPCC statement said.

The testing and tracking system, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised would beat globally, has seen setbacks, including a bug identified earlier this month that delayed the upload of nearly 16,000 cases to computer systems, including for contact tracers.

In recent weeks, the COVID-19 contamination rate in Britain has soared with an accelerating second wave, prompting Johnson and other regional leaders to enact tighter restrictions and local lockdowns.

Britain has one of the highest death rates from the virus in Europe and has previously suffered the worst economic contraction of any of the leading countries since the outbreak.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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