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Coronavirus: School principal 'erring on side of caution' by asking 28 students and teachers to stay home after Italian ski trip

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Coronavirus fears have gripped Europe this week. (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Coronavirus fears have gripped Europe this week. (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Coronavirus fears have gripped Europe this week. (Jonathan Brady/PA)

A school principal said she was “erring on the side of caution” in asking 28 students and two teachers to stay at home after their return from a mid-term ski trip to northern Italy.

The group, from Milford Community School, Co Donegal came back home in the early hours of yesterday morning as concerns were mounting about the outbreak of coronavirus in northern Italy and its spread from there to other areas.

Principal Margaret O’Connor said in contacts with the HSE yesterday, she was advised there was no cause for concern and to carry on as normal.

However, the situation took a turn later in the day when one of the students in the group was hospitalised and, last night, she advised that the group on the trip should stay at home for the “coming days”.

Ms O’Connor said the parents of the hospitalised student have since advised her that the student’s illness is unrelated to the virus.

With events unfolding at a rapid pace, the principal was in constant touch with the board of management and the email was sent out at 10pm.

She said the school had 800 pupils, including some with a compromised immune system, about which they had to be mindful.

“It was a simple decision, and it was common sense to err on the side of caution. And we are also very aware of, and listening to the public mood.

“It was the best decision we would take in the interests of all students,” she said.

She said it was an evolving situation and they would be in touch with the group with further information.

With a number of schools dealing with concerns about students and staff returning from ski-trips in northern Italy, the Department of Education has said public health doctors are available to liaise with them and advise on precautions.

The general advice from the Department is that anyone who has been to affected regions in the last 14 days and has a cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties or fever should self-isolate and phone their GP immediately, while anyone who has travelled from the affected regions and has no symptoms is advised to visit www.HSE.ie for advice.

“The most important action we can take to protect ourselves from Covid-19 is regular hand-washing and good respiratory hygiene,” the Department stated.

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