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Police told they can use Covid-19 app on personal phone amid guideline confusion

Jamie Harris, PA Science Technology Reporter
·2-min read

Police officers have been told they can use the coronavirus contact tracing app on their personal smartphones while working if they wish to, amid confusion about guidelines.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) had initially asked 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.

Most police devices do not have Bluetooth enabled, which the app relies on to function.

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.

Coronavirus contact tracing app
(PA Graphics)

“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.

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.