Helen Kelly's eight-year-old son, Luke, had played at a friend's house after school on Friday, 21 August, spending the afternoon indoors with the family. She was sent a message two days later by the school friend's mother, who told her that her husband had tested positive for the virus that day and that she had passed Ms Kelly’s details on to the tracing service.
Ms Kelly, from Edinburgh, phoned the NHS Scotland coronavirus helpline to ask for advice on isolating her family and was told that if she had not yet been officially contacted by Test and Protect to formally identify Luke as a close contact, they should go about their business as usual - including sending Luke to school the next day.
She did not receive the phone call from Test and Protect to officially inform her of Luke’s contact with the positive case until the following Thursday - six days after he had been in contact with the infected father.
“We were telling them that he had been in contact with someone who had tested positive and it was just a real ‘computer says no’ situation,” said Ms Kelly. “They asked us if Test and Protect had phoned and said we didn’t need to isolate at all until then, despite agreeing that the situation I had described would be likely to be classed as close contact. If I’d done what they said, I’d have sent him to school - he could in theory, have been in school until the following Thursday, potentially infecting all his classmates, if the family hadn’t told us about the case themselves.”
She added: “It was a shambles. This is why we’re generally in the situation we’re in now, with rising cases. They were just lucky that he hadn’t actually been infected.”
Ms Kelly, a communications manager, was also unable to get a drive-through test for Luke due to high demand in the system, despite him developing a temperature two days into their unofficial quarantine.
“I tried to book a test and was offered one first in Inverness and then in Newcastle,” she said. “I phoned the helpline again and explained the situation and that he’d actually been in contact with a positive test and now had symptoms and asked if there was any chance they could find a space for him closer to home, but they said no.
“He’d spent the entire weekend after he had been in contact with his friend’s father - before we knew - with his granny in Fife, who had taken him to church, so he had potentially infected a lot of older people in that community who were walking around unaware.”
The family eventually obtained a postal test and received negative results and completed the two week quarantine period at home.