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Coronavirus fears: Melbourne schools call for students who have recently visited China to stay at home

Schools across Melbourne have issued notices to parents calling on them to keep their children at home if there is a possibility they may have contact with the deadly coronavirus.

The notices come despite the Victorian Education Department’s advice that excluding students is unnecessary in most cases.

Parents with children at Firbank Grammar School, Scotch College, Methodist Ladies College, Strathcona Girls Grammar School, Carey Grammar, Haileybury, Shelford Girls’ Grammar, St Catherine’s School, Caulfield Grammar, Balwyn High School and Melbourne Central Primary have received the letters instructing them to keep their children home from school for two weeks if they’ve visited affected areas or come in close contact with someone who has.

Parents at Firbank Grammar School have been sent a letter urging students who have visited Wuhan, come in close contact with people who have visited Wuhan, or travelled elsewhere in China and are exhibiting flu-like symptoms, to “remain in China, or self-isolate in Melbourne with their parents for two weeks from contact or date of arrival”.

The school has urged parents to monitor their child’s health and check their temperature daily.

Meanwhile, at MLC parents received similar advice in a statement:

“We appreciate that there are currently some families travelling during the Chinese New Year period.  There will likely be some families who remain in China beyond the commencement of school due to travel restrictions in certain Chinese cities.  These families should not be concerned about missing the start of the school year.  MLC will work with each family on a case by case basis to support students who commence school a little later than usual.”

Anne, a Scotch College parent, said she’s also received a letter written in both English and Chinese.

“It says, in particular, if you’ve recently visited the areas where the virus has been identified we recommend that you refrain from sending your son to school until he has been back in Australia for at least two weeks,” she told Neil Mitchell.

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David Howes, Deputy Secretary of the Victorian Education Department’s Schools and Regional Service, says in most cases parents don’t need to keep their children at home.

“There is no need to exclude students or staff who are well, even if they have been travelling in China,” he told 3AW’s Ross and John.

“Obviously if they are a concerned case of coronavirus then we would be requiring that they stay away for 14 days, or if they’ve had close contact with someone that has been a confirmed case.

“Otherwise the advice is not that students should be excluded.”

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Image (background): Don Arnold / Stringer