Police ordered not to download NHS Covid app

By Jim Preen, Director of Crisis Management at YUDU Sentinel

It has emerged that police officers throughout the UK are being ordered not to download the NHS test-and-trace app on their work phones because of ‘security implications’. What does this mean for the rest of us and the government’s uphill struggle to tame coronavirus?

The new app has been going great guns, with the BBC reporting that it has been downloaded more than 12 million times.

When the health secretary, Matt Hancock, spoke in the House of Commons he said: “I would urge everybody, including every single member in this House, to join the 12.4 million.”

However, in a recent statement the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) said: “It is important that we have confidence that the NHS app will work for officers and staff consistently across the country.

“It is for this reason that we have recommended that officers and staff download the app to their personal as opposed to work devices.”

If the police don’t trust the app and feel it has security implications for them, how is this going to play with the wider public? At the very least the announcement muddies the water.

To add to this confusion some police officers have been told they may not need to obey self-isolation alerts from the NHS app if they receive them on their personal handsets. Lancashire Constabulary has told staff to call the force’s own Covid-19 helpline instead.

For the app to be successful scientists have warned it will require a 60% take-up. The decision by the police to question the security of the app will have consequences and will doubtless deter those who have expressed reluctance to download the app because of data privacy issues.

The suggestion that police might not have to obey self-isolation requests drives a coach and horses through the notion that we ‘are all in this together’.

If the NPCC had concerns about the app these should have been made known before the launch and not as slap in the face to a government who quite justifiably are trying to get as much of the population to download the app as possible.

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