Schools in the UK are taking drastic action to protect against Covid-19 as the illness continues to spread across Europe amid fears of a global pandemic.
Some have closed while others have sent pupils home for fear they may have been exposed to coronavirus during ski trips to northern Italy.
It comes as 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.
— Public Health England (@PHE_uk) February 25, 2020
Authorities in Italy reported on Tuesday night that the number of people infected in the country grew to 322, or 45% in 24 hours, and deaths of patients with the virus rose to 11.
Austria, Croatia and Switzerland reported their first cases, while Spain and France recorded new ones, also involving people who had been to northern Italy.
The first positive test in South America has been recorded after 61-year-old Brazilian man who had recently been to northern Italy tested positive, it has been reported.
Meanwhile, Public Health England announced that flu patients will now be assessed for coronavirus to see if it is spreading.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said official advice has been changed to say people who have been to anywhere in Italy north of Pisa should self-isolate if they develop flu-like symptoms on their return to the UK.
On Tuesday, Cransley School in Northwich, Cheshire, and Trinity Catholic College in Middlesbrough announced they would be closed for the rest of the week.
Both schools said that this was to allow for a “deep clean” after pupils and teachers had returned from ski trips in northern Italy.
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” and 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.
Britons who have been in locked-down regions of Italy – including Lombardy and Veneto – were told they should self-isolate at home for 14 days even if they have no symptoms.
The Foreign Office later updated its travel advice, with a spokesman saying: “We advise against all but essential travel to 10 small towns in Lombardy and one in Veneto, which are currently in isolation due to an ongoing outbreak of coronavirus.
UPDATE on coronavirus (#COVID19) testing in the UK:
As of 25 February 2020, a total of 6,795 people have been tested:
6,782 negative.13 positive.
All future figures will now include the four cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) February 25, 2020
“Any British nationals already in these towns should follow the advice of the local authorities.”
Britons were also among the 700 guests at hotel in Tenerife who were told to stay in their rooms after an Italian doctor there was diagnosed with coronavirus.
The Italian doctor and his wife tested positive and were placed in isolation in hospital, the Canary Islands government confirmed.
It said the couple had travelled with eight other Italians who were showing no symptoms.
The Canary Islands government added that more than 100 tourists at the hotel who are believed to have not had any contact with the couple will be allowed to leave, but it is not known if they include any Britons.
A Foreign Office spokesman said its staff was offering advice and support to British people at the hotel.
The 108-room Grand Hotel Europa in the Alpine tourist hub of Innsbruck in Austria was sealed off after a receptionist was one of the first two cases of the virus in the country, Reuters reported.
Health ministers from seven European nations have met in Rome to discuss a coordinated response.
The European Commission, which enforces the rule book for the open-border Schengen Area, encouraged countries to adopt measures based on scientific evidence and “in coordination and not in a fragmented way”, a spokeswoman said.
Symptoms of Covid-19 include a cough, fever and shortness of breath.
England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said schools could be shut and public transport reduced if coronavirus became a global pandemic.
He said: “There’s no secret there’s a variety of things you need to look at, you look at things like school closures, you look at things like reducing transport.”
Prof Whitty said families could also be asked to self-isolate if one of them had symptoms of the virus.
As of February 25, a total of 6,795 people have been tested in the UK with 13 positive cases.
The Department of Health also added Iran, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma and parts of northern Italy to the list of places where travellers need to follow clinical advice.
China has reported 78,064 cases and 2,715 deaths, while South Korea has the second highest number of cases with 1,261 and 11 deaths.
Early on Wednesday the US military said one of its soldiers based in South Korea has also tested positive for Covid-19.