Coronavirus concerns send independent school into lockdown

Two students at an independent school have been isolated after returning unwell from China, with symptoms similar to those presenting with the coronavirus

St Mary’s Independent School in Southampton has evacuated pupils after two students came down with symptoms similar to those presenting with the coronavirus.

In a statement sent to parents, headteacher Claire Charlemagne said two pupils, who are members of the same family, returned to the UK from a region in China affected by coronavirus. Since returning to the country, the pupils reported feeling ill and reported themselves to the NHS.

“Having been checked by medical professionals at Southampton General Hospital have been placed in isolation [outside the hospital],” the headteacher added.

It comes as the number of people in the UK diagnosed with the conditions doubled to eight.

St Mary’s is in contact with Public Health England (PHE) – the executive agency responsible for contagious disease surveillance and control – which is monitoring the situation.

As a school, our first priority is to keep our children and community safe

The school will be closed for deep cleaning to remove any potential traces of the virus.

St Mary’s said in a statement: “As a school, our first priority is to keep our children and community safe. We have taken advice on this situation from Public Health England and the Natural Health Service.

“We have been advised that we need to take all steps reasonably practicable to prevent the spread of this virus. We have therefore taken the decision to close the school immediately in order to undertake a thorough deep clean, and to allow any potential traces of the virus to be removed.”

The school announced its closure yesterday and will remain shut until Thursday.

At the end of January, the Boarding Schools’ Association issued guidance for schools.

The association said the coronavirus is “different from the SARS outbreak in 2003, when many schools had to quarantine pupils”, but added, “it is essential that all schools consider appropriate, proportionate and risk-assessed responses based on the circumstances of the individual school, the situation locally and updated advice from the relevant authorities”.