Video: Health Secretary Matt Hancock responds to people who are reporting not being able to download the NHS Test and Trace app due to phone software requirements (Birmingham Mail)
Police officers have been told they can use the coronavirus contact tracing app on their personal smartphones while working- 24 hours after they were told not to download them for ‘technical reasons’.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) had initially advised officers to hold off downloading the app on both personal and work devices pending a technical assessment.
A spokesman denied any suggestion of ‘security issues’ or a policy reversal, saying such checks are standard procedure for any new software used on work-issued smartphones.
Guidance distributed to chiefs on Tuesday still recommends that officers do not install the app on work handsets.
It comes as officers at Lancashire Constabulary were told on Tuesday they should not carry their personal phones on duty and should ignore self-isolation warnings via the app on their own mobiles and call the force’s own Covid-19 helpline instead.
Some constabularies do not allow officers to download ‘third party’ apps on their work phones whereas others are more lenient.
Most police devices do not have Bluetooth enabled, which the app relies on to detect whether users have come into close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
Covert personnel or those in sensitive roles have been asked to consider not downloading it at all for the time being until more detailed guidance is given in the coming days, the NPCC spokesman added.
The Police Federation said it approached the NPCC on behalf of members following confusion over guidelines from police chiefs.
‘The welfare of our members is absolutely paramount, and we view this app as a key part of the public campaign to contain the virus alongside personal protective equipment (PPE), distancing and hand hygiene,’ said John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales.
‘For our colleagues and their families to be as safe as they can be, all these elements need to be used together.
‘It is of course a personal decision if officers now want to download the app.
‘However, we would encourage and urge our 120,000 members to do so for their own safety.’
The NHS Covid-19 app was rolled out across England and Wales last Thursday, using Bluetooth technology in smartphones to keep an anonymous log of people an individual comes into close contact with.
Close contact broadly means being within two metres of a person for at least 15 minutes.
According to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the app was downloaded 12.4 million times by midday on Monday.
Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own contact tracing apps, which were launched at earlier dates.
The infection tracing software has been plagued with problems with the latest fiasco seeing up to 70,000 users blocked from logging their positive test results.
At first, anyone who was tested in an NHS hospital, Public Health England lab or as part of an Office for National Statistics survey could not upload their result.
One of the key features of the app is that it enables people to scan their phones using QR codes in hospitality venues, so they can be alerted if there is an outbreak linked to that site.