There’s no connection between new biometrics legislation and Covid-19 tests

17th Sep 2020

Claim

The government has brought in legislation that allows DNA from Covid-19 tests to be “harvested” and retained.

Conclusion

This is incorrect. This legislation allows the police to retain DNA profiles obtained related to national security and has nothing to do with Covid-19 testing.

Multiple posts on social media have claimed that new government legislation has enabled  DNA to be “harvested and retained” from Covid-19 test kits.

This is not true.

The legislation, ‘The Coronavirus (Retention of Fingerprints and DNA Profiles in the Interests of National Security) (No. 2) Regulations 2020’, is related to DNA profiles collected by police forces in the interest of national security.

At no point in the legislation is there any mention of DNA collected from Covid-19 tests.

The initial legislation (Section 24 of the Coronavirus Act)  brought in in March, gave the secretary of state the ability to extend the amount of time police are allowed to retain DNA profiles and fingerprints collected on the grounds of national security by six months. 

This was then done as part of  The Coronavirus (Retention of Fingerprints and DNA Profiles in the Interests of National Security) (No. 2) Regulations 2020.

This will help police to continue investigations which are potentially delayed and affected by the current pandemic. 

Since 2012, police have been able to keep DNA profiles and fingerprints of people who were not convicted of a crime for up to three years with a possible two-year extension, and indefinitely for some convicts.

All DNA samples must be destroyed after 6 months. 

A DNA sample is an individual’s biological material. A DNA profile is a unique number produced from this sample and stored on the national DNA database. It allows people to be identified if they leave DNA at a crime scene. 

In a statement from March on the legislation, the biometrics commissioner said: “The government has introduced this measure because, due to the unprecedented pressure on policing resources caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the police are unable to follow their normal processes. 

“In the current circumstances the police simply would not have the resources necessary to make NSDs [National Security Determinations] in the normal way, which will result in biometrics that are of importance to national security being lost.”

The explanatory note at the bottom of the latest legislation reads: “These Regulations provide for extension of the time limits that apply to the retention of certain fingerprints or DNA profiles. The Regulations apply in respect of fingerprints or DNA profiles that are retained under certain counter-terrorism provisions, or that may otherwise be relevant to the interests of national security.”