Some of Sydney’s top private schools have ordered the parents of students returning from China get a doctor’s clearance before sending their children back to school this week following the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.
The parents of children attending the prestigious Scots College and Pymble Ladies College have been told to comply with strict guidelines in a bid to protect students and staff from the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile in Melbourne, private schools Firbank Grammar School and Scotch College are asking parents to keep their children home for 14 days if they have travelled to parts of China affected by coronavirus, according to letters sent to 3AW.
In a message sent to parents, Scots College principal Ian Lambert said the school had sought the advice of the Department of Health on how to best ensure the safety of its students and staff when school returns on Wednesday.
While the government advised it had well-established procedures to detect people with the illness, it was still very early in their understanding of the outbreak, Dr Lambert wrote in the message, seen by nine.com.au.
The school was therefore asking parents of students who had travelled to China during the summer school holidays to keep their children home until they had medical clearance, he wrote.
“If your family has recently travelled to China, we ask that you refrain from sending your son/s to school until they have received a medical clearance from a doctor,” Dr Lambert wrote.
The school would also be cancelling its Chinese New Year Celebration, planned for January 31, as a “precautionary measure”, he wrote.
In a message sent by Pymble Ladies College, the parents of children who had recently visited affected areas in China were asked to keep their daughters at home from school for two weeks and only return with a doctor’s clearance.
“Please do not send your daughter to school for at least 14 days after her return to Australia, or at least 14 days after the most recent contact with someone who has visited an affected area,” the message from Pymble Ladies College read.
“Please ensure she has received a medical certificate from a doctor before returning to school.”
Nine.com.au understands that several other Sydney private schools, including Ravenswood School for Girls, Knox Grammar School and St Aloysius’ College have all sent out similar guidelines for parents to follow.
Parents at Firbank Grammar School in Melbourne have been sent a letter urging students who have visited Wuhan, come in close contact with people who have visited Wuhan, or travelled elsewhere in China and are exhibiting flu-like symptoms, to “remain in China, or self-isolate in Melbourne with their parents for two weeks from contact or date of arrival”.
The response from private schools comes as anxious parents of children in the public system called on the NSW Department of Education to do more to protect their children from the deadly virus.
Tom Bai, is the father of a child in Year 1 at Epping West Public School, in Sydney’s north west, where 93 percent of the student population come from a non-English speaking background.
Mr Bai was so concerned about the coronavirus that he started an online petition demanding his child’s school and the Department of Education ask families who had visited China to keep their children at home for two weeks. The petition has so far collected more than 2800 signatures.
“This is a deadly virus and there is no cure for it. The symptoms vary and not all patients develop a fever. Some coronavirus carriers show no signs of illness,” Mr Bai wrote in the petition.
“For the safety of the wider school community, I would like to ask Epping West Public school management, working together with NSW Health and NSW Education Department to enforce the policy of requesting families recently returned from China to keep their families at home isolated for 2 weeks before attending school,” he wrote.
“I am confident that if we work together, we can win this battle.”
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the national approach to preventing the spread of coronavirus in Australia did not require all students who had travelled to affected areas in China to stay away from school.
“Our advice is that people that have come back from – children that have come back from the Hubei province – we have broadened it slightly from Wuhan … if you have symptoms, that you should get immediately checked if you’ve come back from that area.
“And also, if you’ve been in contact with any confirmed case, that you should not attend school – close contact with a confirmed case of novel coronavirus, you shouldn’t attend school for the 14 days.
“Otherwise, we’re just suggesting that people monitor their symptoms. That’s the advice we’ve seen with schools. We’ve just had a national hook-up and there’s been agreement that that is the approach nationally.”
Spokespersons for the NSW Department of Education and Victorian Department of Education and Training told nine.com.au they had issued advice to all schools regarding the risks of the coronavirus.
The departments would be working with the Department of Health to ensure the most current and appropriate advice was provided to schools regarding the outbreak, they said.
More than 2700 people have been infected by the new strain of coronavirus, since its outbreak in Wuhan, China in December. So far, four people in Australia have tested positive to the virus, three in NSW and one in Victoria.
A young female Chinese student is the likely to be the fifth case of coronavirus in Australia.
Professor Brendan Murphy, the federal government’s chief medical officer, told Today this morning the student is in isolation and had preliminary tested positive to the virus.
Professor Murphy said more confirmed cases are likely to emerge over the coming days.
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