Health officials to advise schools to stay open in wake of coronavirus fears

Health officials are to tell schools that they do not need to close or send staff and pupils home if there is a suspected case of coronavirus.

Public Health England (PHE) is expected to issue new guidance to schools on Monday saying that no restrictions or special control measures are needed while tests for Covid-19 are carried out on a suspected case.

While a pupil or staff member suspected of coming into contact with the virus is being tested, the guidance says no action is needed.

If a case of the virus is confirmed, then health protection teams will speak to the head teacher and action will be taken.

The new guidance comes the week after at least seven schools in Brighton, Hove and Eastbourne were understood to have told parents that either a staff member or pupil has been advised to stay at home for 14 days by PHE.

Schools messaged parents saying that they would authorise absences for families wishing to self-isolate.

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.

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.

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.

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

His 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.

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

French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said an elderly Chinese tourist had become the first death to the virus in Europe, Reuters reported.

The patient, a Chinese tourist from the province of Hubei that includes Wuhan, had arrived in France on January 16 and suffered a lung infection caused by the virus.

Covid-19: confirmed cases
(PA Graphics)

The death toll in mainland China has risen by 142 to 1,665.

Chinese authorities also reported the number of new cases has fallen for the third straight day to 2,009.

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

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