Northern Ireland

Coronavirus: Apology after family given wrong advice

Dan Douglas
Image caption Dan Douglas had been on a school trip to Italy but had no symptoms of coronavirus

A 14-year-old County Down boy was given incorrect advice to confine himself to his bedroom for 14 days after he returned from a school trip to Italy.

The information was issued by the Public Health Agency's (PHA) coronavirus helpline, which also advised his family to quarantine themselves for two weeks.

The schoolboy had not displayed symptoms associated with coronavirus.

The PHA apologised and said the family should not have been quarantined.

Dr Philip Veal of the PHA said he had concerns about the helpline's quality control but added the agency was working to ensure the flaws identified by the BBC's Nolan Show were rectified.

The teenager Dan Douglas, from Banbridge, returned from northern Italy last weekend but had not been to any of the 11 towns at the epicentre of the outbreak in the country.

Image caption "Robust steps" have been taken to improve the advice given on the helpline, says Dr Philip Veal

His family said the incorrect advice was given to them in two separate phone calls to the helpline.

He had none of the symptoms associated with the virus, such as a cough, fever or shortness of breath.

Dr Veal, a consultant in health protection, said the PHA was "very disappointed" to hear the family had been given the incorrect advice.

"We very much regret and apologise to the family for this inconvenience and the discomfort it will have caused them" he added.

He said the PHA was seeking an "assurance" about the handling of calls to the coronavirus helpline.

Image caption Dan Douglas appeared on the BBC's Nolan Show with his father Dougie Douglas

Asked by the Nolan Show whether the public could have confidence in the helpline, Dr Veal said the health body had taken "robust steps" and improved "quality assurance" of the advice given by the call centre.

"Over the course of the last two weeks we've had upwards of 800 or 900 calls through to the helpline and two issues have been identified," he said.

"Given that, two wrong pieces of advice is two too many for us."

The PHA said only a GP should advise whether someone with coronavirus symptoms should self-isolate.

More on this story