Chinese private school pupils face coronavirus quarantine if they travel home

Private school pupils who travel to China at half-term face two weeks of quarantine when they come back because of fears about the coronavirus.

The Boarding Schools' Association (BSA) has sent a warning to parents that children may be kept in isolation if they visit China then come back to the UK.

It comes as 94 people returning from Wuhan, the city where the outbreak started, have been put into isolation in Merseyside for 14 days in case they are infectious.

Two weeks is the maximum time someone infected with the virus can go without showing any symptoms – it is the NHS and Government's chosen quarantine time.

Two people have tested positive in the UK so far and are recovering at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

The BSA said that if a pupil goes to China and comes back, that 'protective measures could well be in place before they return. Depending on how the virus spreads in that time, this could include the need for returning pupils to be quarantined.'

The Rugby School, in Warwick (pictured), advised its pupils and their families to 'avoid travel to high risk areas'

The Rugby School, in Warwick (pictured), advised its pupils and their families to 'avoid travel to high risk areas'

Acting head at the Ipswich High School, Nicola Griffiths, said: 'We are not accepting any pupils from China, and affected regions, until the outbreak is contained'

Acting head at the Ipswich High School, Nicola Griffiths, said: 'We are not accepting any pupils from China, and affected regions, until the outbreak is contained'

The BSA issued its advice along with the Association for the Education and Guardianship of International Students (AEGIS) and the British Association of Independent Schools with International Students (BAISIS).

It said: 'Schools must make it clear that anyone returning from China will be required to spend a period of 14 days in the UK before returning to school, and should self-isolate during this time. 


What is this virus?

The virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild lung infections such as the common cold.

But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.

Can the Wuhan coronavirus kill?

Yes – 362 people have so far died after testing positive for the virus. 

What are the symptoms?

Some people who catch the Wuhan coronavirus may not have any symptoms at all, or only very mild ones like a sore throat or a headache.

Others may suffer from a fever, cough or trouble breathing. 

And a small proportion of patients will go on to develop severe infection which can damage the lungs or cause pneumonia, a life-threatening condition which causes swelling and fluid build-up in the lungs.

How is it detected?

The virus's genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China and countries around the world have used this to create lab tests, which must be carried out to confirm an infection.

Delays to these tests, to test results and to people getting to hospitals in China, mean the number of confirmed cases is expected to be just a fraction of the true scale of the outbreak.  

How did it start and spread?

The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.

Cases have since been identified around China and are known to have spread from person to person.

What are countries doing to prevent the spread?

Countries in Asia have stepped up airport surveillance. They include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines.

Australia and the US are also screening patients for a high temperature, and the UK announced it will screen passengers returning from Wuhan.

Is it similar to anything we've ever seen before?

Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere.


'AEGIS has made it clear that their guardians are highly unlikely to be able to offer guardianship under such circumstances.

'Although this exceeds current [Foreign Office] advice, it is highly likely that full quarantine requirements will be in place by the time pupils return. 

'Many schools have now put arrangements in place for pupils to stay with guardians or in school accommodation during the forthcoming break.'      

Almost 70,000 children attend boarding schools in the UK and Chinese children make up the largest number of non-British private pupils around the country.

They compose around one in six international pupils at fee-paying schools.

And some 80 per cent of those have parents living overseas, according to a report by the Independent Schools Council.

But visiting home may be off the cards for many this February half-term now that the country is largely shut down because of the fast-spreading Wuhan coronavirus.

The virus, which has been spreading for more than a month now, has infected at least 17,000 people in China and killed 361.

Transport restrictions are in place inside the mainland and in countries around the world, with many airlines – including British Airways – stopping flights to China altogether to prevent the disease from spreading.

In a message to its members the BSA said: 'Advise parents, carers and guardians of any pupils proposing to travel to China and Hong Kong over February half-term to consider not travelling.'

It added: 'We are accepting no pupil or visitor from China and affected regions until the outbreak is contained.

'Any pupil, parent or visitor who has travelled to or been in direct contact with anyone from a novel coronavirus affected area may be asked to remain at home to prevent the potential spread of the virus.'

The virus, although poorly understood, is known to spread between people by coughs, sneezes and close contact – and even tears. 

A number of top schools around the country have followed the guidance, including Rugby School in Warwick, Ipswich High School and Hereford Cathedral School.

Nicola Griffiths, acting head of Ipswich High School, where fees are up to £33,000 per year, said: 'We are not accepting any pupils from China, and affected regions, until the outbreak is contained.'

She said any travelling pupils would be told to stay away from school.

The Rugby School's headmaster, Peter Green, said pupils and their families should 'avoid travel to high risk areas'.

Admissions manager at the Hereford Cathedral School, Laura Yates, said to the Hereford Times: 'Obviously for Chinese pupils they are concerned about family and friends back home.

'None of the pupils are travelling back home and the boarding house will remain open over half-term.

'None of the students from China have been there since the outbreak and any planned visits from family and friends have been cancelled.'

More than 17,200 people have been infected worldwide, higher than the total recorded cases of the SARS virus that killed some 800 people in 2002 and 2003

More than 17,200 people have been infected worldwide, higher than the total recorded cases of the SARS virus that killed some 800 people in 2002 and 2003

What is the Wuhan coronavirus? 

Someone who is infected with the Wuhan coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.

At least 362 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and more than 17,520 have been infected in at least 26 countries and regions. But experts predict the true number of people with the disease could be 100,000, or even as high as 350,000 in Wuhan alone, as they warn it may kill as many as two in 100 cases.  Here's what we know so far:

What is the Wuhan coronavirus? 

A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body's normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word 'corona', which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.

The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It is currently named 2019-nCoV, and does not have a more detailed name because so little is known about it.

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Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: 'Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals. 

'Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses). 

'Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new

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