Coronavirus could close schools for up to two months as first Brit dies of virus

Schools across the UK could be “closed for months” due to coronavirus, health experts are warning.

Friday, 28th February 2020, 1:59 pm
Updated Friday, 6th March 2020, 10:07 am

England's chief medical officer has said it is "just a matter of time" until coronavirus spreads in the UK, as the number of confirmed cases in the country jumped to 16.

Three people tested positive for the virus in the UK on Thursday, including the first confirmed case in Northern Ireland.

Experts have warned of school closures and cancelled sporting events as the disease spreads across the globe.

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Burbage Primary School in Derbyshire has been closed due to a "confirmed case of coronavirus amongst our parent population". PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday February 27, 2020.

Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer, said on Thursday there could be a "social cost" if the virus intensifies, including school closures for more than two months.

He told the Nuffield Trust summit: "One of the things that's really clear with this virus, much more so than flu, is that anything we do we're going to have to do for quite a long period of time, probably more than two months."

The Northern Ireland patient had recently returned from northern Italy, while a parent at a primary school in Derbyshire contracted the virus in Tenerife, where 168 Britons are being kept in a hotel on the south west of the island.

Burbage Primary School in Buxton remains closed after the adult was diagnosed with the illness and Buxton Medical Practice, a two-minute drive from the school, also urged patients not to attend for appointments on Thursday due to the confirmed case.

The third patient also contracted the virus in Italy, which has become the worst affected country in Europe with at least 650 cases and 15 deaths.

In England, the latest two people to test positive for the virus have been taken to hospitals in London and Liverpool.

So far in the UK, 7,690 people have been tested for the virus and of the 16 to have tested positive, eight have so far been discharged from hospital.

Public health advice remains to wash hands with soap, not rub the face and maintain a distance from people who are coughing and sneezing, he said.