Pupils and staff from three schools sent home as coronavirus precaution

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Pupils from three schools in Northern Ireland have been sent home as a precaution against coronavirus.

Groups from Cambridge House Grammar in Ballymena, Co Antrim, Limavady Grammar School in Co Londonderry and Banbridge Academy in Co Down which had recently been in Italy were included.

Advice from health authorities is to “self-isolate” in certain cases.

Dr Muhammad Sartaj, consultant in health protection at the Public Health Agency (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 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.

“Travellers who have been to 11 specific towns in Italy must self-isolate.

“Anyone who has been in northern Italy, not including Pisa, Florence or Rimini, is asked to stay at home for 14 days if they develop cough, fever, or difficulty breathing, and seek medical advice.”

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

The school group of about 50 from Ballymena was in the Lombardy region in the north of Italy on a ski trip, but did not visit towns affected by the virus and are showing no symptoms.

They travelled through Milan airport, Cambridge House Grammar School principal Elma Lutton said.

“This is precautionary, none of them were in those nine towns, none are showing any symptoms.

“They were in the Lombardy region but went through Milan airport.”

Pupils from Limavady Grammar School and Banbridge Academy have also been sent home following trips to Italy.

A group of Year 10 pupils from Limavady travelled to Marilleva for a ski trip and flew home via an airport in Milan on Saturday.

A group of 88 pupils and staff from the Academy had been at the resort of San Valentino.

There are strict quarantine restrictions in two northern hotspots close to Milan and Venice.

Thousands of people cannot enter or leave several towns in the Lombardy and Veneto regions for the next two weeks without special permission.

Covid-19: affected areas in Italy
(PA Graphics)

Cambridge House Grammar is one of the leading schools in Ballymena, with more than 900 pupils.

One of the parents whose child was not affected, Marty Adams, said: “As a parent, and I am sure every parent would echo the same, this is a matter of concern.

“I am glad to see that precautions are in place and hopefully no-one will be affected by it, but people were able to return to the school and spend some time in the school.”

The new strain of coronavirus originated last year in Hubei province in China.

It causes a respiratory disease called Covid-19 and produces flu-like symptoms.

People wear sanitary masks in Milan, Italy
People wear sanitary masks in Milan, Italy (Claudio Furlan/Lapresse via AP)

Stormont health minister Robin Swann said: “We are in a fast-moving situation.”

He said updated guidelines were being issued to doctors.

“It is unlikely at this stage that any school would have to close if they follow the latest guidelines,” he added.

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