A Week Ago Tuesday


‘Hello, you’re through to the XSHN contact tracing helpline’

‘Hi … ugh I got a text message … it said to ring this number. Does that mean I’ve got it? Have I got Corona virus?’

‘Please stay calm. The notification indicates you have potentially been exposed to someone who has reported symptoms. This phone call is to assess the risk level and provide advice as to how to keep yourself and others safe. I will ask you a few simple questions and depending on your answers you may be safe to carry on as normal.’

‘Okay …’ 

‘First thing you need to do is to go into the application and find your anonymous reference number’

‘Oh, err… hang on I’ll need to put you on speaker, one moment’

‘No problem’

‘Okay, I’ve got the app open. Where is this reference number?’

‘If you go into notifications …’

‘Ah, I see it. Shall I read it out to you now?’ 

‘Yes please’



‘That’s right’

‘Okay, I’ve got the records up. I’ll now ask you a series of questions to help us make our assessment. First of all, can I just confirm that you are not experiencing any of the symptoms of Covid19 …

‘No, wait what are those again …’

‘ …Such as a raised temperature or new sustained cough?’ 

‘No, well I’ve got a runny nose but that might be allergies …’

‘But no fever or cough?’


‘Okay. Now, I would like to get the details about the nature of the exposure. Our records indicate that you were exposed for 15mins on the 12th May at around 2pm. Can you remember what you were doing then?’

‘12th of May? When was that, a week ago Tuesday? … I don’t remember, all the days just seem the same!  … you must hear that a lot, I guess.’

‘Please try and recall, perhaps looking at your diary might help jog your memory?’ 

‘I can look, but there is not much in there these days, I’ve been furloughed … I’m just at home with the kids all day.’

‘Please check, just in case’

“Okay, nothing. Sorry’

‘That’s okay. Did you take any photographs? Or post anything to social media?’

‘I’ll check … but I don’t think so. I can’t think, we probably just went for a walk and otherwise stayed in. That’s what we do most days, I can’t think what might have triggered it.’

‘I know it’s hard, but we all create a digital footprint everywhere we go. On your phone there will be some kind of record of where you went. Perhaps in a health app? Did you go running perhaps?’

‘I don’t use those, my phone battery doesn’t last so I have to turn all that stuff off.’

‘Did you make any calls? Or whatspp messages? You could look at your online bank statement, perhaps you went to the supermarket?’

‘Umm…do I have to? It feels, I don’t know …  I thought this was meant to be anonymous?’

‘We’re committed to respecting your privacy, any additional information is provided on a voluntary basis to help combat the spread of the disease.’

‘It’s just, I don’t know. Are you recording this? Where does this information go? I don’t even know who you are?’

‘This call is recorded for training purposes, however, we are committed to respecting your privacy. Any information gathered in this call or by the app will be used to help inform public health response to the outbreak’

‘I don’t understand, you could be anyone, a scammer, or stalker or something? You could even be one of those robot callers.’

‘Ma’am, I can assure you this is the official helpline. Remember, you called us. If you do not cooperate with the contact tracing process, I will be forced to issue you with an orange notice to quarantine for two weeks.’

‘You can’t do that! Please, I follow all the rules, I even wear a mask in the supermarket. We can’t stay indoors anymore, the kids are already climbing the walls. Please, things were meant to be getting back to normal’ 

‘I will have no choice. But if you cooperate, then perhaps I won’t need to … All you need to do is remember what you were doing on the 12th May at 2pm’

By Cally Gatehouse | @callygraphy