A group of international students who recently returned from China are being isolated on a separate floor of their Queensland school boarding house over fears they may have been exposed to the deadly coronavirus.
Stuartholme School, in Brisbane’s inner-city suburb of Toowong, boards 11 students from mainland China.
The school has now placed 10 of those students under quarantine. The 11th, who also resides within the quarantine area, will not return to the school until the quarantine period ends.
The information was contained in a letter sent to parents ahead of the beginning of the new school year. The all-girls school said it was being “proactive” in its response to the coronavirus and was following advice from Queensland Health.
It’s unclear whether any of the students were returning from Wuhan or any other regions of mainland China that have confirmed cases of the virus.
The school said its students returning from mainland China would be isolated to their own floor of the Boarding House for a period of 14 days and undergo daily medical testing.
“Every day, the nurses from our Health Centre will undertake a medical assessment of the students to check for any signs of illness,” the letter, obtained by 10 News First read.
The school said while the students would be isolated, they would still be allowed to attend classes, provided they did not show any signs of being unwell during morning medical assessments.
“Our school always follows the advice of public health authorities in these circumstances and I would ask you to be especially aware of this current situation in the interest of public health,” the letter read.
10 daily has contacted the Queensland education department for comment.
Queensland Health told 10 daily that a fact sheet had been sent out to all schools in the state, but declined to comment on specific questions related to advice given to boarding schools.
In the fact sheet, the department said students who have links to Wuhan, the province of Hubei in China, or another confirmed case who have become unwell should not attend school or classes.
Those students are also urged to contact their GP or health provider “without any delay”.
“Please ring ahead to advise the health provider that you will be attending so they may take any necessary precautions,” the sheet advised.
So far there have been no confirmed cases of the virus in Queensland. Five people have been diagnosed across Australia, including a 21-year-old Sydney university student.
It comes as Sydney Catholic Schools, which oversees more than 150 schools in the city, said it was introducing new protocols to deal with the risk of exposure to students following a number of confirmed cases.
Executive Director Tony Farley said “a small number” of school principals had indicated some of their students had visited China over the holiday period.
As a result, new protocols are being put in place for the start of the school year, including the requirement of a doctor’s certificate clearing students for school if they have visited China in the last two months.
“If you have visited China anytime in December to now, please refrain from sending your child/ren to school until they have been checked and cleared by a doctor,” Farley said in a letter sent to families.
“During this time, you should be alert for symptoms related to a fever or other respiratory symptoms. A doctor’s certificate will be required prior to your child/ren returning to school.”
Students who have not visited China during the holiday period, but were still exhibiting flu-like symptoms, have been told to not return to school until they have recovered.
“Please advise the school principal immediately if you become aware of your child having been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with Coronavirus,” Farley said.
On Tuesday, NSW Health also changed their advice for students returning to school across the state and asked students who have travelled to China in the last fortnight to not return to school for 14 days.
“It is a really difficult issue but if it’s about making sure that our children are absolutely as safe as we can humanly make it — in the face of some commentary out of China that there’s a possibility of transmission in that period where there are no symptoms — then on balance we decided that that’s the way we’ll approach it,” NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard told reporters.
“I think hopefully the community will understand that.”