This week’s Covid-19 communication covers:
- New update as of 2.3.20
- Link to previous advice.
As ever the update is issued by BSA in conjunction with our partners AEGIS and BAISIS. BSA reminds all schools that it is not a medical, statutory or legal authority.
Matters have moved on very quickly from last week:
- Downing Street said a UK-wide action plan to tackle coronavirus, agreed at today's emergency Cobra meeting, would be published on Tuesday.
- Public Health England (PHE) said widespread transmission of coronavirus in the UK was now "highly likely".
- The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention ECDC today publishes a rapid risk assessment on the novel coronavirus situation in Europe. It states: "The risk of widespread sustained transmission of COVID-19 in EU/EEA and UK in the coming weeks is moderate to high, with more countries expected to report more cases and clusters."
Given the speed with which matters developed in countries such as Italy and South Korea, schools should continue to prepare actively for the next phase. No BSA school has as yet reported an actual case to us, but several schools have needed to initiate precautionary isolation of some pupils or staff. We are also aware that some schools which have contacted NHS 111 are still awaiting call backs.
A.2: Message from the Department of Education (DfE), England
Today, we have launched a new helpline to answer questions about COVID-19 related to education. Staff, parents and young people can contact the helpline as follows:
No school should close in response to a suspected (or confirmed) COVID-19 case unless directed to do so by Public Health England.
Personal hygiene is the most important way to tackle COVID-19. Please sharing simple and effective hand hygiene messages. Public Health England has a dedicated webpage with a range of posters and digital materials at: https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/resources/campaigns/101-coronavirus-/resources. Sign up is quick, free and means you will be alerted as more resources are made available.
New guidance for employers: The Department for Business (BEIS) and Public Health England have issued guidance for employers, which you can find at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-covid-19
Latest government information:
A.3: Recent developments
The virus has now reached a much larger range of countries but is spreading widely in only a small number of those countries. The advice continues to be that only those who have been to Hubei, Iran or restricted areas of South Korea and Italy need to self-isolate if coming to the UK. Those from China and a range of other countries listed on the public health websites need only do so if they become symptomatic. BSA believes that school leaders must continue to consider public health advice, evaluate the risk of each individual situation, but also ensure that they take no unnecessary risks.
A.4: Immediate management
Most schools now have detailed plans in place for Easter. These should now be “stress-tested” to ensure they are still valid following the recent escalation of the disease profile. In the more immediate phase, schools should prepare for all likely scenarios. These include sudden restrictions on travel, school closures and curtailment of events and “public gatherings”. Schools should be considering the logistical arrangements for keeping boarders safe, including fed and watered, under any such restrictions, especially if a case should develop within the school community.
While respecting any need for confidentiality for the individuals concerned, schools with suspected cases must also communicate openly and honestly with each other if fixtures or other events are planned.
Farrer & co. has produced a further guidance note on the coronavirus outbreak (following up the one sent on 5 Feb). It focuses on the latest school-specific Government guidance and decisions around closure. Please click here to view (a login is required).
A.5: Contingency Plans
ISBA has commissioned an operational business continuity planning tool for members. It introduces a series of hierarchical and escalating response considerations based upon potential worsening outbreak scenarios. The response should be measured, proportionate and cautious, fitting within the school’s overarching critical incident response plan. Please click here to view (a login is required).
A.6: Cases or suspected cases in schools or school closure
Schools must follow the advice of their local health body about managing a case or suspected case in school, but services are extremely stretched, so schools will doubtless be responsible for some of the early management themselves, and must consider how this can be best achieved.
BSA has been in touch with the DfE (for schools in England) to seek guidance on the position of boarders and boarding staff on site in school in the event of the Government ordering all schools to shut. In response, Peter Swift, Head of Independent Education and School Safeguarding, has replied:
“We think that in these circumstances the best thing would be for the school to remain open and the boarders to remain.”
As well as having plans in place for Easter, schools should work with pupils and parents to consider the eventuality that things might change at the last minute as a result of restrictions in the UK or another country. BSA has received some offers from schools remaining open over Easter to help those unable to and will include these in our Friday newsletter. Where it is possible for boarding pupils to see their parents or carers over the Easter holiday, all reasonable efforts should be made to facilitate this, while safely observing any self-isolation period which might be advised or operational at that time.
A.8: Public Health advice
The advice from Public Health England is updated daily, although this frequently is just to update on current figures. PHE has several regional offices who can be contacted, and their contact details are here, along with those for Health Protection Scotland, Public Health Wales, Public Health Agency (Northern Ireland) and Department of Health (Ireland).
Health Protection Scotland updated its school advice last week. Please click here to view this advice.
BSA fully appreciates the strain this issue has put on staff in schools, and particularly on pupils and their families, some of whom are making considerable sacrifices. BSA and our partner organisations AEGIS and BAISIS will continue to support our member schools as best we can during this very challenging period.
A.10: Public Examinations
Last week Ofqual released guidance on what schools and colleges and other centres should do if exams or other assessments are seriously disrupted (not coronavirus specific but the guidance still applies). Please click here to read the advice.
B. Links to previous BSA advice
If you would like further advice from the BSA nursing advisors, please email email@example.com.