Families have told The Scotsman that close contacts of their children, who have tested positive for Covid-19 over the weekend, have not been contacted through the school tracing procedure.
When a school pupil tests positive, their parents are asked to provide a list of known close contacts – such as friends and family seen outside of school – while they also give the name of the school their child attends.
The school is then subsequently contacted by Test and Protect and identifies other children who are in the bubble of a child who is positive – usually classmates – and instructs them to isolate and take a test according to Scottish Government protocol.
However, since the academic term came to an end for most Scottish school pupils on Friday, parents have claimed that known positive cases have not been processed in the usual way, leaving families forced to identify close contacts themselves through social media such as informal parents’ WhatsApp groups.
One parent, from East Lothian, isolated her family and took tests after her daughter started experiencing symptoms on Saturday.
She found that both she and her two daughters were infected with Covid-19, while other members of the family were negative.
The child’s close contacts have still not been contacted by Test and Protect or the school, although the parent informed other families with a child in the same class via an informal WhatsApp group. Other children also tested positive on the same day.
The parent, who did not wish to be named, said: “We took the test on Saturday. You are asked to put in the name of the school your child attends and when you get a positive test, you get taken to a link to put all your contacts in.
"I’ve had no phone call from Test and Protect and none of the names I gave them have been contacted, because I’ve checked. Technically, you’ve got people wandering around with no idea that they could be spreading the virus, although obviously they’re not doing that because I have spoken to them.”
She added: “It feels to me that Test and Protect is falling down in schools. Test and Protect are leaving it to schools to do their own contact tracing. If it’s not happening for me, it’s probably not happening for anyone.
"The schools have now gone on holiday, so who is doing this? It’s the end of term – people could have dispersed all over the country without knowing they should be isolating.”
Another parent whose eight-year-old son is at school in Edinburgh said he was contacted by Test and Protect on Tuesday – five days after his child’s last contact with a number of positive cases in his class.
A number of other organisations which his son attended with children who had tested positive, including an after school club, a football group and Cubs, had all contacted him before he got official notification from the authorities. Other parents had also alerted families informally.
He said: “The mum [of the positive case] has been really good, she has gone above and beyond and told as many people as she could.
"But we heard nothing at all over the weekend from Test and Protect. Maybe I'm assuming too much or expecting too much, but I thought that filling in details from a positive test might trigger something to make contacts aware immediately, so that they don't go on holiday, or start hugging grandparents.”
He added: “When I spoke to Test and Protect they said they were really busy, that there was a backlog.”
Labour MP Ian Murray said he had been contacted by a number of constituents in Edinburgh with the same problem.
He said: “It's becoming clear that the system in place for tracing contacts now that schools are closed is not working properly.
"Rather than all the PR and slick marketing of the Scottish Government, they need to concentrate on getting these systems sorted rather than passing the buck to others. With infection rates in Scotland rising fast, we need their systems to work efficiently and effectively.”
Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Oliver Mundell said: "The growing number of cases among our young people has been worrying. We can't simply turn a blind eye to this because the school holidays have now started.
"SNP ministers should have ensured they put robust measures in place in our schools before the holidays began, to guarantee that all close contacts could be traced as quickly as possible. Instead, it is appeared they have abandoned schools to fend for themselves.”
He added: "The last thing we need is for cases to slip through the net as a result of the SNP's inability to implement adequate safety measures in our schools. Ministers must explain immediately how they intend to keep track of pupils who may test positive in the coming days, even though they are no longer in the classroom.”
A spokeswoman for East Lothian Council said: “Although schools are now closed, the education service in East Lothian is continuing its joint work with Health Protection Scotland to support the contact tracing process. Parents and carers will continue to receive communication from the education service in the same way as they did during term time for those cases which relate to attendance at school last week.”
A spokesman for Edinburgh Council said it has a dedicated team who were alerted by Test and Protect when a positive case of a young person or member of staff who has been infectious whilst in school or early years settings was confirmed so that close contacts can be identified.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Our tracing teams have in place established local processes for handling positive cases through working collaboratively with schools, council education departments and health protection teams to ensure close contacts are identified and issued with appropriate public health advice promptly.
“Each NHS Board and council has its own established arrangements, including key holiday contacts lists for following up within schools to ensure all those identified as close contacts of positive COVID-19 cases, including on the last days of term, are followed up as appropriate.”