School children sent home amid coronavirus fears
HUNDREDS of pupils and teachers who have flown back from school trips to Italy have been told to stay home amid coronavirus fears.
Banbridge Academy, Cambridge House in Ballymena and Limavady Grammar School are among those who asked people to stay home as a precaution.
Some children and staff have been asked to "self isolate" for two weeks following advice from the Public Health Agency (PHA) issued to all schools.
Other schools have sent advice leaflets home to parents but have stressed there is "no cause for alarm".
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said people with flu-like symptoms who have been north of Pisa are asked to stay at home for 14 days.
The advice also applies to anyone who recently returned from quarantined towns in Italy even if they have no symptoms.
Italy has put 11 towns in Lombardy and Veneto into lockdown.
A group from Ballymena had been in the Lombardy region in the north of Italy but did not visit nine towns affected by the infection and are showing no symptoms.
They travelled through Milan airport, Cambridge House principal Elma Lutton said.
"Taking cognisance of advice from the Public Health Agency and following advice from the Education Authority, the pupils and staff on that ski trip have been sent home for 14 days self-quarantine," she said.
"This is precautionary - none of them were in those nine towns, none are showing any symptoms."
One of the parents whose child was not affected, Marty Adams, said: "As a parent, and I am sure every parent would echo the same, this is a matter of concern.
"I am glad to see that precautions are in place and hopefully no-one will be affected by it, but people were able to return to the school and spend some time in the school."
Irish Health Minister Simon Harris said Ireland's Six Nations game against Italy in Dublin on 7 March should be postponed because of the coronavirus situation.
"This game should not go ahead," Mr Harris told Irish broadcaster RTE.
He said he would be meeting with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) on Wednesday morning.
There are strict quarantine restrictions in two northern hotspots close to Milan and Venice.
Thousands of people cannot enter or leave several towns in the Lombardy and Veneto regions for the next two weeks without special permission.
Outside the zone, sporting events have been cancelled and many schools and businesses have suspended normal operations.
Almost 90 pupils and staff from Banbridge Academy travelled to Italy earlier this month for a ski-trip, staying in the San Valentino area of Trentino.
The group arrived home on Saturday.
In a letter the school said the PHA recommended that any pupil or member of staff who recently travelled "and is displaying flu-like symptoms, should be isolated as soon as possible and should self-isolate at home until Monday 9 March".
"In addition, as a further precaution, siblings or other family members showing symptoms should self-isolate and not attend school."
A group of Year 10 pupils at Limavady Grammar returned from a ski-trip in the Marilleva area on February 22.
"Following the advice of the Public Health Agency this morning, all pupils and staff have been advised to self-isolate for 14 days until March 9," the school said.