Coronavirus: Wolverhampon school 'with students of Italian origin' shuts for deep clean
A Wolverhampton school has shut for a deep clean due to coronavirus, citing some of its students' Italian origin as one of the reasons for the closure.
The Khalsa Academy in Ettingshall informed parents it would close on today and tomorrow, as a precautionary measure.
The secondary school, which has around 600 students, said it wound undergo a deep clean, before reopening to students on Monday.
It comes despite Public Health England (PHE) saying that its general advice is not to close schools and Health Secretary Matt Hancock urging schools not to close unless they have had a confirmed case of the virus.
Parents and carers were told in a letter, seen by the Express & Star, that the Wolverhampton school was among three Khalsa Academies Trust schools which would shut for the same reason.
The school moved to reassure parents that there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus at the school.
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A statement on the school's website said: "As a trust of schools, we have been monitoring the developing situation regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and the advice being given to schools by the Government and Public Health.
"Further to this advice and because our schools have some students of Italian origin we have taken the decision to close all three trust schools (Atam Academy, Redbridge; Khalsa Secondary Academy, Stoke Poges and the Khalsa Academy, Wolverhampton) at the end of the school day today, in order for a deep clean to take place on all three sites over the next two days of Thursday, February 27, and Friday, February 28.
"All three schools are to remain closed for these two days and will then reopen as normal on Monday, March 2."
The letter to parents added: "Please rest assured the closure of the three schools is purely a precautionary measure, as we are placing the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff as our top priority. There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 within any of the three schools, nor do we suspect there to be any such cases at this present time.
"I wish to apologise for any inconvenience these school closures will no doubt cause for parents and families, but I would ask that you bear with us during these uncertain times."
Ettingshall Councillor Beverley Momenabadi said: "I have spoken with both the school and the local authority today. It must be stressed that there are no cases or even suspected cases of the virus at the school.
"The local authority has not advised the school closure. But, having spoken with the headteacher she is keen to take this precautionary measure as she feels it will prioritise the well-being and health of staff, pupils and the wider community.
"The move is not to cause alarm or panic, it is purely precautionary and I understand Anita's (headteacher) priority is the well-being of the pupil/staff and getting back to the curriculum as soon as possible."
A Wolverhampton Council spokesman added: "Wolverhampton Council’s Public Health department is fully aware of the current situation and is liaising closely with Public Health England, which is the national advisory board for Health Protection. We will continue to follow its advice and guidance.
"Residents, organisations and businesses, as well as individuals and families who have recently returned from parts of the world affected by the coronavirus outbreak, are asked to follow the latest Government advice, available at www.gov.uk/coronavirus. This information is updated on a daily basis.
“In addition, the Government has produced detailed guidance for schools and other educational settings. Its advice is not to close schools.”
Meanwhile a Kidderminster school which closed to pupils on Wednesday has reopened.
The ContinU Plus Academy shut as it waited for advice from Public Health England following someone in a member of staff's family returning from northern Italy.
But in a statement on its website the school confirmed it was back open on Thursday following a deep clean.
No schools are closed in Sandwell and Staffordshire.
The closures come after travellers returning to the UK from northern Italy were told they may need to self-isolate as part of measures to stop the spread of illness.
Authorities in Italy have reported that the number of people infected in the country grew to 400 and 12 people have died.
In London, energy firm Chevron asked about 300 British employees to work temporarily from home after an employee in its Canary Wharf office reported a flu-like illness.
PHE said even if there has been a suspected case in the workplace, there is no need to close or send staff home while test results are awaited.
It said most possible cases turn out to be negative.
Mr Hancock said guidance had been sent to UK employers telling them staff who are asked to self-isolate are entitled to take sick leave.
He told the Commons that medical advice on self-isolation should be considered “sickness for employment purposes”.
Elsewhere, the Foreign Office denied there were any plans to evacuate around 168 Britons who remain in a coronavirus-hit hotel in Tenerife.
However, it has arranged for written messages to be put under the doors of the rooms of British guests asking them to get in contact.
Austria, Croatia and Switzerland reported their first cases linked to the outbreak in Italy while Spain and France recorded new ones, also involving people who had been to northern Italy.
Mr Hancock told MPs on Wednesday that 7,132 people in the UK have so far been tested for the virus, officially named Covid-19.
Of these, 13 have tested positive, of whom eight have been discharged from hospital.
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