Schools could close for TWO MONTHS under plan to contain coronavirus

UK schools could close for TWO MONTHS under plan to contain coronavirus as cases rise and medics warn the old and infirm may NOT get treatment

  • Emergency plans being drawn up by health officials to contain the coronavirus
  • Football matches, concerts, schools, and other gatherings might be suspended
  • Yesterday Government announced there had been three more confirmed cases

Emergency plans are being drawn up by health officials to contain the coronavirus which could see schools closed for at least two months.

Football matches, concerts and other mass gatherings may also need to be suspended, the chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said.

Professor Whitty has refused to rule out anything, but is understood to be cautious about school closures unless absolutely necessary because of the huge impact on society and the economy.

He said: ‘We’re not saying we will do them, we have to look at them and say, ‘How likely are they to work?’ 

A general view is pictured of Burbage Primary School in Buxton, Derbyshire on February 27, 2020, after the closure of the school as a pupil’s parent has tested positive for the coronavirus

Four pupils at Thomas’s Battersea School, the same one that is attended by Prince George and Princess Charlotte, have been sent home after showing coronavirus symptoms following a trip to Italy

Today, the Government announced there had been three more confirmed cases in the UK bringing the total number to 16, although there have not been any deaths.

The first school closed down due to a confirmed case was Burbage Primary School in Buxton, Derbyshire.

An adult linked to a child at the school was one of the three new cases, having been diagnosed after coming back from Tenerife. A GP surgery in the town was also closed.

A second patient, believed to be a man from Surrey, was diagnosed yesterday after returning from a ski trip to Northern Italy.

A deep clean starting at a primary and pre-school in Bretton, Peterborough on Thursday

More than 500 cases of the killer coronavirus have now been recorded across Europe, with 453 of them in Italy

The third case was confirmed in Northern Ireland and the individual had also recently come back from Northern Italy via Dublin.

It came as the World Health Organisation warned that many countries were ‘simply not ready’ to contain the virus.


Around 50 Britons quarantined at a coronavirus-hit Tenerife hotel have been told they can leave.

Those who can leave are understood to have arrived on Monday, after the guests who were diagnosed had already left.

But with no way to track the movements of the Brits and no quarantine in place for them coming home, the news has sparked fears the tourists could bring the virus back home and cause an outbreak on home soil.  

Some 168 British nationals are among hundreds of guests being kept at the four-star H10 Costa Adeje Palace in the south west of the Spanish island after at least four guests, including an Italian doctor, tested positive for coronavirus.

Overall, 130 guests from 11 countries have been told they can leave by Spanish authorities.

A statement from the Foreign Office said: ‘We are urgently seeking clarification from the Canary Island authorities following their announcement that 130 tourists of different nationalities will be granted permission to leave the Costa Adeje Palace Hotel.

‘We continue to offer support to all British nationals at the hotel.’

The news comes after TV doctor Hilary Jones blasted quarantine measures at the hotel.

A British man, who did not wished to be named, told PA the hotel was unable to enforce quarantine measures and nobody felt safe.

Another said an aqua gym class was held on Thursday morning in the hotel pool.

All of those on site were initially told to stay in their rooms but local authorities have now said people without symptoms can move around the hotel, including to the pool and bar. 

Professor Whitty, who has been the chief medical officer since October, is in charge of drawing up the Government’s emergency plans for containing the virus.

Yesterday he shed light on some of the options being considered by officials, should the number of cases in the UK suddenly escalate.

Speaking at the Nuffield Trust Summit in Windsor, Berkshire, he said he thought it was only a ‘matter of time’ before Britons started catching the disease from each other on a larger scale.

This is known medically as ‘onward transmission’ and so far in the UK the cases have only occurred in individuals who have either been to a virus hotspot country themselves, or come into close contact with someone else who has. 

But Professor Witty said: ‘If it is something that is containable, the UK can contain it. If it is not containable, it will be not containable everywhere and then it is coming our way.’

Professor Witty said the key was for scientists to now work out what could ‘delay’ or ‘flatten’ the outbreak. 

He added: ‘Everybody knows that the kinds of things you consider are reducing mass gatherings, school closures which may or may not be appropriate for this type of virus we don’t know yet, we need to find that out.

‘There are several things – to be clear, we’re not saying we will do them, we have to look at them and say how likely are they to work and what’s our evidence base here. What’s the social cost of this?

‘Because one of the things that’s clear with this virus, much more so than with the flu, is anything we do we’re going to have to do for quite a long time – probably more than two months.’

Professor Witty is understood to be only considering school closures if they are unavoidable.

If that were to happen, many parents would be forced to take time off to look after their children including doctors, nurses and paramedics – who would otherwise be treating coronavirus patients – and social care workers.

However thousands of schoolchildren across the UK could spend another day at home today after being sent by headteachers panicked by the virus fears.

Despite pleas from Health Secretary Matt Hancock not to close unless someone tested positive, the number closed entirely for the rest of the week reached double figures yesterday.

In Japan, authorities have ordered all schools to close until the end of March. And in France president Emmanuel Macron has also warned that France was on the brink of an epidemic. 

Derbyshire town on lockdown after holidaymaker tests positive for virus

A town in Derbyshire was in lockdown after a holidaymaker who had recently returned from a trip abroad tested positive for the virus.

A primary school and GP practice in Buxton were closed yesterday to limit the spread.

A couple who visited Tenerife are at the centre of the case, with one of them testing positive. It is believed they stayed at a hotel on the island.

The woman, in her 40s, has a child at Burbage Primary School, which is closed for a deep clean.

Buxton Medical Practice also closed as a precaution, with a voice message telling patients to not visit. And residents on one street were visited by officials in protective suits to be tested for possible infection.

Burbage Primary School (pictured today chained up) in Buxton, Derbyshire, told parents and carers about the case last night. However, health chiefs have yet to confirm if it is correct 

Zoe Jones, 26, saw several ambulances visit a property in town on Wednesday night.

Paramedics in hazard-style suits helped a person into the vehicle and they were taken to a hospital in Liverpool.

The primary school announced its decision to shut on Wednesday night and informed parents with a WhatsApp message. School bosses emphasised that the decision had been taken for the safety and protection of children and teachers.

Headteacher Anthony Tierney said: ‘We are shut, it is just a precaution. I can’t say anything more at the moment.’

The school – which has 347 pupils – will remain closed today for a deep clean. It emerged last night that the child attended the school on Monday and Tuesday but the infected adult had not visited.

The Buxton Medical Practice was shut this morning, and patients ringing to book an appointment were told that it was because an infected patient had visited the GP surgery – despite official advice not to

Dr Fu-Meng Khaw, centre director for Public Health England (PHE) East Midlands, said it was contacting people who had close contact with the patient.

He added: ‘Close contacts will be given health advice about symptoms and contact details to use if they become unwell in the 14 days after contact.’

Several schools around the UK have closed over fears pupils and staff members may have been exposed to coronavirus during trips over the half-term break. But this case is believed to be the first to involve a closure linked to a confirmed case of the virus.

Others have sent some staff and pupils home. But PHE says it is not advising schools to shut to stem the spread of the virus.

‘Treating the elderly would be sacrificed if coronavirus overwhelms UK’: NHS would prioritise critical care for those most likely to survive rather than most vulnerable patients, senior doctors admit

by Leigh McManus

Doctors have admitted that the most vulnerable patients could be denied critical care in a severe coronavirus outbreak, as they also warned that the UK is dangerously unequipped to deal with a pandemic. 

Under protocol dubbed ‘Three Wise Men’, senior medics at hospitals would need to decipher which patients to give care such as ventilators and beds to, with a focus on saving those most likely to recover. 

The medics spoke to The Independent in the wake of ‘dishonest’ assurances from the Government that the UK can handle the virus which is rapidly spreading across Europe. 

A man arrives at Euston Underground this morning wearing a mask, as coronavirus fears continue to mount in the UK

What is ‘Three Wise Men?’

In preparation for the 2009 Swine Flu  pandemic, the committee on Ethical Aspects of Pandemic Influenza (CEAPI) developed an ethical framework in 2007 and this was based on the principle of ‘the three wise men’. 

This has since been reviewed post 2009, and the conclusions are that the framework remains appropriate to future pandemic management. 

According to the guidance, this means that: 

  • Everyone matters 
  • Everyone matters equally – but this does not mean that everyone is treated the same 
  • The interests of each person as the concern of all of us, and society 
  • The harm that might be suffered by every person matters, and so minimising the harm that a pandemic might cause is a central concern 

The Framework goes on to describe eight core principles: 


Minimising the harm that a pandemic could cause 

  • Fairness 
  • Working together 
  • Reciprocity 
  • Keeping things in proportion 
  • Flexibility 
  • Good decision making 

Ethical considerations are important in determining how to make the fairest use of resources and capacity. 

Decisions should be in proportion to the demands of the pandemic and other existing pressures and should be aimed at minimising the overall harm caused by the pandemic. 

It should be noted that many people will also face personal dilemmas such as tensions between their personal and professional obligations.


At the time of writing, 82,564 people are known to be infected with the disease while 2,809 have died as a result. 

The England-based medics told the publication that the already struggling health service would ‘crumble’ under the weight of a large outbreak, one lamenting that their hospital even struggled to contain this winter’s seasonal spate of flu and colds. 

‘If you can imagine the real worst-case scenarios where supply is massively outstripped by demand we would have to refuse to admit many people who would normally get ventilated,’ one worried doctor said. 

They added that Three Wise Men was developed by The Committee on Ethical Aspects of Pandemic Influenza ‘to minimise the harm the pandemic causes,’ despite disparities in care levels for sufferers. 

On the Government’s claims that the UK is equipped to deal with a pandemic, the doctor rubbished them, branding the comments ‘nonsense’.  

Another doctor added: ‘If this is like the 2009 flu it’s going to be very bad. We’re in a worse position than we were then. If it’s worse than that we’re going to be in deep trouble.’  

He added further, that the reduction in UK intensive care beds in recent years ‘was scandalous’.

Another critical care consultant from a major south London hospital said: ‘We would be making decisions about people’s lives. There just isn’t any slack in the system. We are grossly under resourced.’

This doctor, a geriatrician from the West Midlands, also refuted claims from the NHS that the service is equipped. They branded the comments ‘nonsense’ and ‘media spin’.  

The medical professional added that on a ‘person to person basis’ the disease and care for it is nothing to worry about, only for those who would require critical care. 

One consultant said Three Wise Men had been brought up in recent weeks while another medic from the North of England said it had been mentioned at their hospital informally. 

A passenger on the Jubilee line of the London Underground wears a face mask today. Fifteen cases of coronavirus have now been confirmed in the UK

A Government spokesperson said: ‘The UK is a world leader in preparing for and managing disease outbreaks, and our approach will always be led by medical experts. 

‘We have been clear from the outset that we expect coronavirus to have some impact on the UK and a global pandemic could have a pronounced effect on the NHS, which is why we are planning for every eventuality.

‘Public safety is our top priority and we have a team of public health experts and scientists working round the clock to make sure the NHS and UK more widely is fully prepared.’ 

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