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Coronavirus: Fears see Northern Ireland schools closed and pupil pulled from class


Newtownhamilton High School

Newtownhamilton High School

Spectators wearing masks to protect against coronavirus outside the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey, London

Spectators wearing masks to protect against coronavirus outside the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey, London


Arlene Foster arrives at Downing Street ahead of an emergency COBRA meeting into the coronavirus situation

Arlene Foster arrives at Downing Street ahead of an emergency COBRA meeting into the coronavirus situation

AFP via Getty Images

Robin Swann

Robin Swann

Empty shelves at Sainsbury’s at Forestside

Empty shelves at Sainsbury’s at Forestside

Newtownhamilton High School

Two Northern Ireland schools have been closed and a third plunged into chaos when a pupil was pulled out of class after he was linked to a positive coronavirus case.

The brother of a team member of the footballer diagnosed with Covid-19 at the weekend was given the green light to attend school, while his older sibling was told to self-isolate.

However, the school was subsequently advised on Monday morning to send the pupil home, with the instruction that he should also self-isolate - after spending several hours with classmates.

The latest developments come as:

  • Belfast City Council called off its annual St Patrick's Day parade and concert in the city;
  • All St Patrick's Day parades were cancelled in the Republic of Ireland including in Dublin;
  • More cases of Covid-19 in the Republic were confirmed, bringing the total number to 24;
  • Leo Varadkar warned that more than half of the population in the Republic of Ireland could contract Covid-19;
  • First Minister Arlene Foster said "plans are in place" to deal with any escalation of the coronavirus here; and
  • A fifth person has died in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus.

The handling of the case has led to concerns over the advice being given to people who may have been exposed to the virus, with parents at the school criticising the apparent confusion.

"It's very worrying because there seems to be conflicting advice coming from officials," said one parent.

The scare at a Co Armagh secondary school comes after it emerged on Saturday that a member of Portadown-based team Hanover FC had been diagnosed with coronavirus.

It is not known whether the player was advised to remain at home until he received the results of his test.

On Monday night Tandragee Rovers, a football club in the Mid-Ulster Football League, confirmed a senior player had been diagnosed with the virus.

Earlier west Belfast GAA club St Gall's confirmed one of its adult members also has coronavirus.

In a statement, Tandragee Rovers said: "We commend the actions of our player for self-isolating and getting tested as soon as he became aware that he had been in contact with a person who had also tested positive over the weekend.

"We have been in contact with the Public Health Authority and have advised our players accordingly."

Deep cleaning is under way at both clubhouses and training and matches have been halted.

Alliance Party health spokeswoman Paula Bradshaw said health officials must provide clarity to the public of the circumstances under which people are considered at risk of falling ill with Covid-19 and when they should take steps to self-isolate.

"It is vital public health information is kept updated and communicated widely," she said.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has said it cannot comment on individual cases.

It comes as it emerged that 222 tests have been carried out in Northern Ireland, resulting in 12 people being diagnosed with coronavirus.

Providing an update to his Assembly colleagues on the five presumptive positive cases announced on Sunday night, Health Minister Robin Swann (above) said: "The PHA advises that two of these cases were travel-related involving individuals who had recently been in northern Italy.

"The remaining three cases can be traced to previously reported cases that involved recent travel to northern Italy.

"One of the three is a young person. The individual attends a school which is co-located with a primary school.

"Both schools have received public health advice from PHA health protection consultants."

The two schools, believed to be Newtownhamilton primary and high schools, have been closed for deep cleaning.

Mr Swann continued: "As I have outlined previously, the increase in positive cases is not unexpected and I would advise members of the public not to be unduly alarmed by these developments.

"The overall risk to individuals in Northern Ireland has not changed at this stage - based on the advice of the UK Chief Medical Officers, the risk to the UK still remains at moderate. This will be kept under review.

"I would echo the calls of the Prime Minister and advise people against panic-buying of food or other products at the supermarkets."

Mr Swann said the UK, including Northern Ireland, remains in containment phase.

Government officials and medical professionals on Monday announced the decision not to move into the delay phase of the response to Covid-19. This would see the introduction of social isolation measures, including the closure of schools and banning of public gatherings.

Belfast Telegraph

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