My housemate tested positive for corona, but the Test and Trace app didn’t tell me

Five days have passed since she entered her test result, but I haven’t got a notification


On Wednesday last week my housemate, Yasmin*, tested positive for COVID-19. Because we’re living together, we hadn’t exactly been social distancing, so I knew I would have to self-isolate too. We had been cooking in the same kitchen, using the same bathroom, and went out for drinks together three days before she tested positive.

When her positive test result was confirmed, we both began our 14 days of self-isolation whilst I waited patiently for the Test and Trace app to inform me that I had been in contact with a positive person – even though I already knew. I was mainly waiting for the notification so I could delete it, and carry on with self iso undisturbed.

But the notification never arrived.

According to the government, the NHS Test and Trace app aims to “trace close recent contacts of anyone who tests positive for coronavirus and, if necessary, notify them that they must self-isolate at home to help stop the spread of the virus.” So, why was I not informed when I had been in contact with a positive person? What would have happened if Yasmin was a zombie bite concealer-type flatmate, and hadn’t told me. Or had forgotten to tell me straight away, and let me leave the house? I could have passed it to many other students unknowingly or someone who was due to visit an older family member or a friend who’s high risk. But maybe it was just me, I thought. Maybe I was a blip in the system.

How the app currently looks for me

Our friend Natalie was another person who had been within two metres of Yasmin whilst she was positive. It turns out Natalie too has yet to receive any instructions or information from the app. That makes two people who could have gone unaware of contact with someone who was COVID positive and failed to self isolate. Two students, may I add, living in the third-worst affected student area in the country.

After she found out, Yasmin got in contact with everyone she could, who are now all self-isolating or have tested negative. But that shouldn’t be up to her. Namely, because she cannot contact everyone she had been near in the past few days – she doesn’t know them all. That was supposed to be up to the app. What about the strangers who will have no idea? Three days before her positive test, we were out for drinks in a local bar with countless other people around us who won’t have been informed that they were in contact with a positive person. However, the app only looks for contacts from two days before the confirmed cases started experiencing symptoms, so three days won’t count.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care told The Sheffield Tab: “The app is working well, it’s been downloaded 16 million times so far, and provides a personalised isolation timeline for each person identified as a close contact of a confirmed case.” But with the app estimated to cost over £35 million, it simply isn’t good enough for it to be failing in this way.

*Name has been changed to protect anonymity.