Coronavirus: Ballymena ski trip pupils and staff told to stay at home to ‘self isolate’

Cambridge House Grammar School in Ballymena.

PUPILS and staff from a Ballymena school who have just returned from a ski trip to Italy have been told to stay at home due to concerns over possible exposure to Coronavirus.

The group from Cambridge House Grammar were not in the ‘designated region’ of quarantined towns but they were in the Lombardy area during their stay in Italy.

School principal Elma Lutton told the Ballymena Guardian: “Following advice from the Education Authority the pupils and staff were sent home for 14 days of self isolation.”

It is understood that work assignments will be sent to the pupils via digital media.

The group travelled through Milan airport, Cambridge House Grammar School principal Elma Lutton said.

The principal was quoted in the News Letter as saying: “Taking cognisance of advice from the Public Health Agency and following advice from the education authority, the pupils and staff on that ski trip have been sent home for 14 days self-quarantine.

“This is precautionary – none of them were in those nine towns, none are showing any symptoms.

“They were in the Lombardy region but went through Milan airport.”

One of the parents whose child was not affected, Marty Adams, said: “As a parent, and I am sure every parent would echo the same, this is a matter of concern.

“I am glad to see that precautions are in place and hopefully no-one will be affected by it, but people were able to return to the school and spend some time in the school,” the News Letter reports.

A message sent from Cambridge House to parents reads: ‘Following guidance from the Education Authority, 25 February 2020, pupils and staff who were on the Ski Trip to Italy last week have been sent home for 14 days self-isolation (returning on 10 March 2020).

‘This is a precautionary action only. Cambridge House Grammar School pupils were not in any of the designated quarantined towns, however, they were in the Lombardy region and travelled through Milan Airport.

‘No symptoms of the virus have been reported by any member of staff or pupil who travelled on this trip. We will continue to follow advice from the relevant authorities’.

Stormont health minister Robin Swann, who is also an Assembly Member for North Antrim, said: “We are in a fast-moving situation.”

He said updated guidelines were being issued to doctors, the Press Association reports.

“It is unlikely at this stage that any school would have to close if they follow the latest guidelines,” he said on Tuesday afternoon.

North Antrim TUV Assemblyman Jim Allister said: “This is a prudent measure given the advice given by the authorities but it is important to stress that no one is reported to be infected. My thoughts are with the pupils, staff and their families at this time.”

Meanwhile, Antrim Grammar School issued the following statement on Tuesday afternoon.

The school said: “As you are aware, there has been a focus on the containment of the Coronavirus over the past number of weeks.

“Whilst the concerns were specific to China initially, you will be aware from the press, that there has been updated public health information in relation to those who have travelled from Italy over the past 14 days.

“In light of the most up-to-date information from the Public Health Agency this morning the updated advice is as follows:

“There are two categories, Category 1 and Category 2.

“Category 1 – The Italian towns listed below are Category 1. Anyone who has stayed in one of these towns should self-isolate regardless of whether they have symptoms or not. **Our pupils were not in these towns.**

“The towns listed are in Lombardy namely Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano and one in Veneto, Vo’ Euganeo. **Our pupils were not in these towns.**

“Category 2 – Northern Italy (apart from the towns listed in Category 1) is Category 2. This means anywhere North of PISA, so this includes the region of our Ski Trip.

“Our pupils were in Andalo, North Italy which places us in this category 2 band. We have been in contact with the Department of Education, the Education Authority and the Public Health Agency today and we have been told to follow the advice from the Public Health Agency.

“Their advice is to continue as normal unless staff or children present with a cough, a fever or have breathing difficulties. If this is the case, pupils and staff should follow the advice from the Public Health Agency and in particular:

• Stay at home

• Contact their GP by phone

• Let the school know

• Children or staff may be required to self-isolate for 14 days if requested by their GP. If this is the case more information about self-isolation will be provided.

“As a school we have taken all of the precautions as advised from the Public Health Agency.”

The Public Health Agency issued an update on Tuesday afternoon.

The full statement from the Public Health Agency is as follows:

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has updated its COVID-19 advice in line with the rest of the UK in light of new cases emerging in several countries.

Dr Muhammad Sartaj, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “With parts of Italy now coming within the guidance, we appreciate that people who may have travelled to the country recently will be concerned and are seeking advice. This includes parents of children who may have been on school trips over half-term, so we are liaising with Department of Education, Education Authority, and schools, to advise on the impact of the newly-updated guidelines, and how they apply in each set of circumstances.

“Travellers who have been to 11 specific towns in Italy must self-isolate.

“Anyone who has been in northern Italy (not including Pisa, Florence or Rimini) is asked to stay at home for 14 days if they develop cough, fever, or difficulty breathing and seek medical advice.

“The guidelines apply equally to all travellers to areas covered, whether travel has been for a holiday, school trip, business, or other reason.

“We would urge travellers to any area covered by the guidelines, or those who care for anyone who has travelled, to check the advice, identify if the travel has taken place in any of the relevant areas, and take steps as required. People who have been in contact with those who have travelled in any of the relevant areas do not need to take any steps.”

Advice for travellers with symptoms:

If you have been to:

Northern Italy (not including, Pisa, Florence and Rimini), Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar since 19 February 2020; or
China, Thailand, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Macau in the last 14 days
and have cough, fever, or difficulty breathing, please self-isolate and contact your GP by phone.

If you are not registered with a GP in Northern Ireland, please contact your local

Emergency Department. Please do not attend the surgery or hospital without phoning in advance. If it is a medical emergency, call 999 and inform the call handler of your recent travel history.

Advice for travellers without symptoms

Even if you have no symptoms, if you have been to:

Hubei Province (including Wuhan) in the last 14 days; or
Iran, specific lockdown areas in Northern Italy [see notes to editors], or special care zones of South Korea [see notes to editors], since 19 February 2020,
please return home, contact the special coronavirus helpline on 0300 200 7885 and follow this advice:

Stay indoors and avoid contact with others as much as possible for 14 days after you arrive
Do not go to work, school or public areas
Avoid visitors in your home
Do not use public transport or taxis


Dr Sartaj added: “The PHA is working with partners across the UK including Public Health England, as well as the Department of Health and health trusts in Northern Ireland, and the health service in the Republic of Ireland, on the ongoing global novel coronavirus response.

“To help reduce any potential spread of coronavirus, the PHA is also urging people to follow the steps that we recommend for similar illnesses such as cold and flu – catch it, bin it, kill it. Always carry tissues to catch your cough or sneeze, dispose of the tissue as soon as possible after using it, and clean your hands as soon as you can as germs can spread to every surface you touch.”

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