26/02/2020

Latest Coronavirus Advice As School Pupils Sent Home

Those who have been to a quarantined town in Italy are advised to self-isolate for the next fortnight as fears of the deadly coronavirus continue.

The matter is affecting schools across Northern Ireland with concerns over recent school trips to the country, where a number of people have now lost their life to the outbreak.

In fresh advice released on Tuesday, the Public Health Agency said those who have been to 11 specific towns in the region should stay at home for 14 days if they develop a cough, fever, or have difficulty breathing. They are also urged to contact their GP by phone.

Covid-19 was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has spread to 27 other countries.

The term coronavirus covers a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.

Cases have been recorded in the UK, however no one has tested positive for the virus in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland.

According to PHA guidelines, travellers who have been to Northern Italy, excluding Pisa, Florence and Rimini, or Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos or Myanmar should self-isolate.

The same advice has been issued for those who have been in China, Thailand, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last two weeks.
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In addition, travellers who have developed a cough, fever, or difficulty breathing should stay at home and seek medical attention, but are urged not to attend GP surgeries or Emergency Departments without phoning in advice.

As it stands, three local schools are understood to have sent staff and pupils home following ski-trips to Italy. Groups from Limavady Grammar School, Banbridge Academy and Cambridge House Grammar in Ballymena recently returned from the region and are therefore affected.

Dr Muhammad Sartaj, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: "With parts of Italy now coming within the guidance, we appreciate that people who may have travelled to the country recently will be concerned and are seeking advice. This includes parents of children who may have been on school trips over half-term, so we are liaising with the Department of Education, Education Authority, and schools, to advise on the impact of the newly-updated guidelines, and how they apply in each set of circumstances."

The guidelines apply equally to all travellers to areas covered, whether travel has been for a holiday, school trip, business, or other reason.

Dr Sartaj added: "We would urge travellers to any area covered by the guidelines, or those who care for anyone who has travelled, to check the advice, identify if the travel has taken place in any of the relevant areas, and take steps as required. People who have been in contact with those who have travelled in any of the relevant areas do not need to take any steps."

The latest coronavirus case data indicates that a total of 35 tests have been carried out in Northern Ireland. No cases have been confirmed.



(JG/CM)

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