Bank rules force staff to turn off NHS COVID-19 tracing app at work

By Iain Withers and Sinead Cruise

LONDON (Reuters) – Branch staff at some of Britain’s biggest banks say rules that require them to store phones in lockers while at work are putting them at undue risk of COVID-19 from colleagues and customers, as they cannot use the country’s tracing app.

Lloyds Banking Group <LLOY.L>, along with rival TSB, are among those advising employees to deactivate the NHS Track & Trace app during office hours, when they are not allowed to keep phones on their person.

Some banks ask staff and cashiers to store phones away to prevent leaks of sensitive customer data, although this is not formally required by regulator the Financial Conduct Authority.

Under current government guidelines, users of the NHS app are advised to disable bluetooth or pause the app when away from their phones to avoid false notifications.

Other companies have told staff to pause the app at work, including pharmaceuticals firm GSK <GSK.L>, which said its other safety measures were sufficient, the Guardian newspaper reported.

The BTU union, which represents staff working for Lloyds but is not recognised by the bank, said it had been contacted by dozens of staff unable to use the app, which has been downloaded by more than 14 million people.

One unnamed Lloyds employee who contacted the BTU said: “I live and work in a high-risk area so I am very concerned at being told that while I’m at work I have to suspend the NHS test and trace app… This defeats the object of track and trace.” 

Another said they were at risk as they had to conduct face-to-face meetings and due to the “blatant transgression of the social distancing rules by many customers”.

“Customers and staff have a right to know if they have come into contact with someone

Police to be told they can use NHS Covid-19 app

Police officers in England and Wales are to be told they can download the NHS Covid-19 app on to their personal smartphones and use them at work.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) issued the guidance after carrying out its own technical review of the software.

Individual officers and other police staff will be informed on Wednesday.

The NPCC had previously advised officers not to download the app on any device, while it reviewed its impact.

And they will still be told not to install it on work handsets.

These typically have their Bluetooth functionality disabled.

And the automated contact-tracing process relies on Bluetooth’s wireless signals.

An NPCC spokesman told BBC News some personnel involved in covert and special operations as well as other sensitive roles would also be told to consider not installing the app on any phone until further guidance was issued.

“It is important that we have confidence that the NHS app will work for officers and staff consistently across the country,” he said.

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

NHS Covid-19 was released to the wider public on Thursday, after several changes to an earlier test version.

It follows the release of similar software in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

‘Key part’

The NPCC had been asked to change its policy by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), which represents about 120,000 officers.

It had appreciated the NPCC wanted to be cautious, it said, but the welfare of its members was “absolutely paramount”.

“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,” John Apter, who chairs the federation, said.