Coronavirus UK: Schools to be advised not to close over suspected cases

17 February 2020, 10:38

Passengers on the London Underground take precautions
Passengers on the London Underground take precautions. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

School and nurseries are to be told they won't need to close or send pupils and staff home due to suspected cases of coronavirus.

Public Health England and the Department for Education are to issue headteachers and childcare providers with fresh guidance on Monday.

Health officials are expected to tell headteacher that no restrictions or special measures are needed while tests for Covid-19 are carried out on a suspected case.

The guidance is expected to say that while a staff member or pupil is being tested then no action is needed.

However, if the subject tests positive for the virus then action will be taken once health protection teams speak to the school.

The move comes a week after some schools in Brighton and Hove have told parents they can choose to keep their children off school as “authorised absences” after five people from the area were diagnosed with the virus.

Read more Brighton shop owner asks customers to wear masks and gloves amid coronavirus fear

A government spokesperson said: “There is no need to close the setting or send other learners or staff home. Therefore, until the outcome of test results is known, there is no action that staff members need to take. People who test negative for Covid-19 will be advised individually about their return to education.”

Read more: Do surgical face masks work to avoid coronavirus symptoms?

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said on Sunday that 3,109 tests have been carried out in the UK so far, with nine positive results.

This is an increase of 117 tests on the 2,992 reported on Saturday.

The number of positive tests remains at nine, with eight of those patients now discharged from hospital after recording two negative tests for the strain known as Covid-19.

Read more: ‘Don’t die, please buy’ Glasgow newsagent sells out entire stock of coronavirus face masks

But "millions" of Britons with flu-like symptoms could be told by authorities to "self-isolate" by staying at home for a fortnight if the UK's number of confirmed cases passes 100, the Sunday Telegraph has reported.

The paper said that senior NHS managers have been told that the service will stop testing for Covid-19 "once around 100 cases have been confirmed" across Britain.

The DHSC did not comment when asked about the self-isolation direction.

Tube passengers in London use masks for protection
Tube passengers in London use masks for protection. Picture: PA

NHS England said on Saturday that all 94 people in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral had been released.

They had been kept in isolation at the hospital after returning to the UK from Wuhan in China - the centre of the outbreak.

More than 100 people remain in isolation at the Kents Hill Park Hotel in Milton Keynes after being on a later rescue flight, the NHS added.

But Britons on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan have accused the Government of "forgetting" about them after other countries confirmed they were bringing their citizens home.

Read more: British-Chinese people tell of ‘discrimination’ and hate as fears rise over coronavirus

David Abel called for the Government to evacuate the British citizens on board and added: "It feels that we have been forgotten."

It is understood that a repatriation flight is one of a number of options being considered by the Government.

Mr Abel's call comes as it emerged passengers could be stuck in quarantine beyond the initial February 19 deadline.

So far, 355 of the 3,500 people on board the ship have tested positive for the virus.

Read more: Leading scientist says forecast of 400,000 UK coronavirus deaths is ‘not absurd’

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We sympathise with all those caught up in this extremely difficult situation.

"We are urgently considering all options to guarantee the health and safety of the British people on board the Diamond Princess, in line with the latest advice from the Chief Medical Officer and the World Health Organisation, and are working closely with the Japanese authorities and our international partners."

Passengers have been quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess after suspected cases were detected onboard
Passengers have been quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess after suspected cases were detected onboard. Picture: PA

The first death from the virus outside Asia was confirmed in France on Saturday.

Read more: Family self-isolated due to 'people’s fears' over coronavirus

The death toll in mainland China rose by 105 to 1,770, in figures announced early on Monday morning.

Chinese authorities also reported the number of new cases had increased slightly on the previous day's figure after falling for three consecutive days.

The 2,048 new cases announced on Monday was up by 29 from the previous day's figure.

The number of people infected globally stands at 68,500, according to the country's National Health Commission.