Schools close or send pupils home due to coronavirus fears

By Joe Gammie, PA

Schools across the UK have closed to protect against coronavirus, despite health officials recommending that they should stay open.

At least eight have closed, while others have sent pupils home amid fears they may have been exposed to coronavirus during trips to northern Italy.

But Public Health England (PHE) said that its general advice is not to close schools.

The closures come after travellers returning to the UK from northern Italy were told they may need to self-isolate as part of measures to stop the spread of illness.

The ContinU Plus Academy in Kidderminster said it was closed for the day on Wednesday after a staff member had been in “close contact” with a family member who was self-isolating following a trip to northern Italy.

A statement on its website said: “We are now taking advice from the DFE (Department for Education) and the NHS and hopefully will be able to reopen tomorrow.

“If a deep clean is deemed necessary we may be forced to extend the period of closure.”

William Martin CofE Junior, Infant and Nursery School in Harlow, Essex, also said it had closed on Wednesday after a staff member had returned from Italy.

Headteacher Gina Bailey said: “The school is closed for one day and it is purely as a precaution.

“The staff member is not displaying any symptoms of the virus.”

St Peter’s C of E middle school in Old Windsor, Berkshire, said on social media it had closed for the day as well.

Its headteacher Andy Snipp said on Facebook: “I received information late last night that one of our students had returned from a half term break to a location which is broadly part of an affected area.

“I must repeat that this is simply a precaution and were I to have been aware sooner then we would have completed the clean prior to the opening of the school.”

Cransley School in Northwich, Cheshire, and Trinity Catholic College in Middlesbrough announced on Tuesday they would be closed for the rest of the week to allow a deep clean.

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Trinity Catholic College said that a “small number of staff and pupils” had started showing mild flu-like symptoms following a ski trip.

Lutton St Nicholas and Gedney Church End primary schools in Lincolnshire also said they had closed “because of a potential connection to the coronavirus by an individual within the school”.

St Christopher’s C of E High School in Accrington told parents it would be shut on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Sandbach High School in Cheshire said students and staff who visited Aprica, in Italy’s Lombardy region, were to stay indoors and self-isolate.

A third Cheshire school, Brine Leas School in Nantwich, said its sixth form was closed due to staff shortages following Government advice regarding travel to Italy.

Students from Penair School in Truro, Cornwall, Salendine Nook High School in Huddersfield, Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School in West Derby and Newquay Tretherras in Newquay, have also been advised to stay home after returning from ski trips.

And four pupils at Prince George and Princess Charlotte’s primary school, Thomas’s Battersea, were reportedly sent home as a precautionary measure following a trip to northern Italy.

Authorities in Italy reported on Tuesday night that the number of people infected in the country grew to 322, or by 45% in 24 hours, and deaths of patients with the virus rose to 11.

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Britons who have been in lockdown regions of Italy – including Lombardy and Veneto – were told they should self-isolate at home for 14 days even if they have no symptoms.

PHE has confirmed it is not advising schools to shut in an attempt to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The organisation’s medical director Paul Cosford told Radio 4’s Today programme: “Schools have to take difficult decisions given the complexity of issues that they are facing.

“What I would say is that our general advice is not to close schools.”