Staff member at UK school tests positive for deadly coronavirus

A staff member at a primary school has tested positive for coronavirus as the killer bug spreads to more cities and towns in the UK.

Willow Bank Infant School, in Reading, Berkshire, sent an email to parents and employees on Saturday night urging them to stay calm and follow recommended hygiene procedures.

The school, in the suburb of Woodley, is to be given a deep clean and will be closed for a few days amid growing fears there will be a wider outbreak.

The email, from head teacher Michelle Masters, states: “We regret to inform you that we were told today that one of our members of staff has tested positive for the Coronavirus, Covid-19.

Do you know the coronavirus patient? Does your child attend the school? Email [email protected]

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“We understand that this will worry many of you, and can reassure you that we have taken advice from Public Health England, who have released the attached statements.

"We have also attached some FAQs which hopefully answer some of the questions you may have.

“We apologise that it has taken some time to officially inform you, however we have first had to perform the necessary checks and procedures that follow such an incident, which has taken most of today.

"Please can we ask that you remain calm and follow the recommended hygiene procedures.

"The school will be shut for some days to allow for a deep clean and to ensure that the risks of infection remain low.

"We will be in contact to ensure that you are kept updated.

“I am sure you will join with me to wish the affected member of staff all the very best for a speedy recovery.”

Earlier, Chief Medical Officer Prof Chris Whitty announced three new cases of the virus, bring the total number of cases in the UK to 23.

The other two cases were in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.

One of the cases is a resident from the Cotswolds area who became infected in northern Italy, and the other two involved a patient who also returned from Italy and one who had been in Asia.

The cases are being investigated and any individuals who had contact with the patients are now being traced.

Debra Lapthorne, centre director for Public Health England South West, said: "Public Health England is contacting people who had close contact with one of the latest confirmed cases of Covid-19.

"The case is a resident from the Cotswolds area and became infected whilst in northern Italy.

"Close contacts will be given health advice about symptoms and emergency contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after contact with the confirmed case.

"This tried and tested method will ensure we are able to minimise any risk to them and the wider public.

"If you have not been contacted by Public Health England, you do not need to take any action at this time."

Boris Johnson spoke with Chief Medical Officer Prof Whitty and Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Saturday, Downing Street said.

The Prime Minister – who announced on Saturday that he is engaged to girlfriend Carrie Symonds and she is pregnant – is receiving regular updates and there will be another call on Sunday, No 10 added.

As of 9am on Saturday, more than 10,000 people in the UK had been tested for the virus, also known as Covid-19 – with 23 confirmed as positive.

It comes as health officials continue to trace anyone who had contact with a patient in Surrey who became the first to catch the illness within the UK.

It was not clear if the patient had contracted the virus "directly or indirectly" from somebody who had recently travelled abroad, Prof Whitty said on Friday.

He added that the patient had been transferred to a specialist NHS infection centre at Guy's and St Thomas'.

Haslemere Health Centre in Surrey reopened on Saturday morning after it was temporarily closed for cleaning as a "precautionary measure" on Friday.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey, said on Twitter he was thinking of "clinicians, staff and patients" at the surgery during this "worrying time".

He added: "Thoughts today with new Covid19 patient and local GP with symptoms alongside their families."

On Saturday morning, health minister Edward Argar refused to comment on reports that a GP may have been infected with the virus.

"I'm aware of The Guardian report, but I'm going on the basis of what I've been told," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I haven't had any details of that and I think it would be wrong to comment on speculation in the press without that detailed advice from the chief medical officer."

Mr Argar also defended the Prime Minister against criticism that he had been slow to act on coronavirus, having delayed chairing his first emergency Cobra meeting on the outbreak until Monday.

It comes as the Government prepares to bring in new emergency powers to help stop the virus spreading.

It is understood that this will give schools, councils and other parts of the public sector powers to suspend laws – including health and safety measures – to cope with a pandemic.

The three new cases on Saturday takes the total number in England up to 21, while there has been one confirmed case in Northern Ireland and one in Wales.

Wales's chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton said the first diagnosed patient in Wales had recently travelled back from Italy, the worst-affected country in Europe.

Doctors and other health professionals could be brought out of retirement to help fight coronavirus as part of emergency Government planning for if the UK outbreak worsens.

Ministers have confirmed, as part of contingency measures for if the spread of coronavirus escalates into a pandemic, that "broader measures" will be considered to keep the public safe and ensure the NHS can handle the added strain.

The plans include a Dad's Army-style emergency registration of health professionals who have retired, as well as relaxing rules around school class sizes in case teachers are off ill or forced to self-isolate.

Meanwhile, Britons at the quarantined H10 Costa Adeje Hotel in Tenerife who test negative for coronavirus will be allowed to return to the UK, holiday operator Tui said.

A spokeswoman said in a statement: "We can confirm TUI UK customers staying at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace in Tenerife have received notification from Public Health England that they are free to return home pending a negative Covid-19 test result.

"We are in contact with them and are making arrangements for them to travel back to the UK."

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Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England (PHE), said any individuals who have returned from the coronavirus-hit hotel are advised to self-isolate until March 10.

About 170 Britons were among those placed in quarantine after an Italian doctor, his wife and two others in their travel party were diagnosed with coronavirus at the hotel.

Six Britons were among those who were told they could leave on Friday by Spanish authorities because they arrived at the hotel on Monday – after those who tested positive had been taken to hospital.

A British man, reported to be in his 70s and said to have lived abroad, was confirmed as the first UK citizen to die from the virus on Friday.

The man, who was on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off Japan's coast amid the outbreak, was the sixth person from the vessel to have died.

David Abel and his wife Sally were both on board the ship, where more than 700 tourists became infected, and are now undergoing treatment for the virus in hospital.

Mr Abel said in a YouTube video: "Sad news this morning, wasn't it? We awakened to that, to hear that one of the Brits has sadly passed away in hospital out here in Japan.

"Our thoughts, our concern is for all of the families left behind. We are fortunate, we're doing OK, we're being really, really well cared for."

The husband of a British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran believes his wife has contracted coronavirus as he expressed concern at the prison's "refusal to test her".

Richard Ratcliffe said that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has repeatedly asked to be tested for the virus at the Evin prison in Tehran, following a "strange cold" that has not improved in more than five days.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has called on the Iranian government to "immediately allow" health officials into the prison.

The number of people sickened by the virus climbed to more than 85,000 globally on Saturday and there were more than 2,850 deaths, most of them in China.

The first case of coronavirus has been confirmed in the Irish Republic.

The health authorities said the patient – a male in the east of the country – contracted the virus in one of the areas of northern Italy badly affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Health authorities are now trying to establish what contacts the patient had in Ireland since travelling from Italy.

Ireland's chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the patient was receiving appropriate medical care.

Saturday night's announcement comes 48 hours after the first case in Northern Ireland was made public.

Earlier on Saturday, Government ministers on both sides of the Irish border held talks on how to co-ordinate their response to the coronavirus spread.

Commenting after Ireland's Health Protection Surveillance Centre was alerted to the case, Dr Holohan said: "This is not unexpected. We have been preparing for this eventuality for many weeks now.

"Public health protocols have been in place since January and are operating effectively.

"The health service is well used to managing infectious diseases and has robust response measures in place."

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