OCTAGON LATEST NEWS
Dear Headteachers and School Governors
The current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in China is ongoing and there is now an increasing number of cases in Europe.
I understand there may be considerable anxiety in our school populations about the developing situation, so I wanted to contact you to ensure you had access to the relevant support and guidance.
We know that you may have pupils who have returned from half term trips abroad, and that people will be discussing this around the school – teachers, parents, and pupils. We would greatly appreciate if you could remind the wider school community to avoid speculation, or jumping to conclusions. This is in order to avoid unnecessary concern.
By way of an update:
- several weeks ago, the UK Chief Medical Officers raised the overall level of risk to the public from coronavirus low to moderate so that appropriate planning and preventative measure could be put in place, however, the risk of individuals getting the illness in the UK remains low.
- As of today, 19 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK, but there have also been over 7000 negative tests in the UK, which emphasises the robust efforts by Public Health and NHS authorities to contain the infection within the UK. There is no current evidence of person to person transmission in the UK.
- Typical symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. The current evidence is that most cases are mild and that cases and children in young people are mild. The people who have had more serious illness are likely to be people who are frail or have existing health conditions.
- Public Health England and the NHS are leading on the response to the outbreak in the UK and we, along with all local authorities, will be guided and act on their advice.
Advice for schools has been circulated to schools via Public Health England, and I am re-sending the link here: this link includes general infection control advice as well as advice on what to do if there is a confirmed or suspected case in the school. Please do note that the advice for returning travellers has been updated since this was collated. (see below).
The most important thing schools can do at present is emphasise the importance of normal hand hygiene measures. There are general principles that all should follow to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
- washing your hands often - with soap and water, or use alcohol sanitiser if handwashing facilities are not available. This is particularly important after taking public transport
- covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in a bin. See Catch it, Bin it, Kill it
- people who feel unwell should stay at home and should not attend work or any education or childcare setting
This is the best way to slow the spread of almost all germs, including Coronavirus.
It is also important that schools are aware of the latest advice for returning travellers from affected areas. This is being updated regularly at the link here.
At present the advice is specific to people who have recently travelled to:
· Republic of Korea
· Hong Kong
· Northern Italy (defined by a line above, and not including, Pisa, Florence and Rimini),
The advice given is variable on the location of travel.
Should there be a confirmed case that impacts on your school population, you will be contacted by Public Health England, who will assess the risk to the school population and advise on things like tracing of contacts and whether school closure is required. We will also update you immediately if there are any significant changes to the public health advice.
All of our schools can direct questions and queries, including on individual cases where families or staff have recently travelled, to the local Public Health England Health Protection Team. Contact details are below -
020 3837 7084
I am also happy to answer any queries so do please let me know if you would like advice on any matter. I can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or through our Council’s school support team. Eveleen and I will also be attending primary and secondary school headteachers meetings next week to speak to you directly and answer any questions.
Please do keep us in the loop, should you become aware of any potential cases. And, if you do receive any media interest at any stage, please liaise with our communications team at email@example.com or by phone at 020 8489 2963 – they will be able to support and advise you.
Please see the links below which may also be useful:
NHS guidance including link to common questions for the public - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
A useful Public Health England Frequently asked questions blog - https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/01/23/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-what-you-need-to-know/
Dr Will Maimaris
Interim Director of Public Health
PA: Grace Ogosi firstname.lastname@example.org (9.30 - 3pm)
Phone : 0208 489 5119
Public Health Directorate
Level 4, River Park House
225 High Road
London N22 8HQ
Tel: 020 8489 1142
Mobile: 07919 357421
GMC no: 6160378