Coronavirus: is it safe to travel and should children be kept home? | Society


When should I keep my children away from school?

People who have recently returned from any of the northern Italian towns that are under containment should self-isolate, whether or not they have symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, or fever. They should stay at home, inform NHS 111 of their travel details, and await advice for further assessment or testing.

There are 10 affected towns in the Lombardy region of Italy, namely Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano, and one in the Veneto region, Vo’Euganeo. The same guidance goes for any travellers returning from Wuhan city and Hubei province in China, Iran, and Daegu and Cheongdo in South Korea.

Schools are issuing specific advice if they suspect pupils may be infected. If you believe your child has contracted the virus through a different route, call NHS 111 for advice.

What if I’ve returned from a coronavirus zone?

In addition to the areas above, Public Health England has drawn up a list of 14 regions from which returning travellers should self-isolate if they develop coronavirus symptoms. These are Cambodia, the rest of China, other areas of Italy north of Florence and Pisa, Hong Kong, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. People returning home from these parts do not need to self-isolate if they do not have coronavirus symptoms.

What if I have a holiday planned to Italy, Croatia or Austria etc?

Travel to most European destinations is unaffected, but this may change as the virus spreads. So far, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all but essential travel to the Italian towns that are in isolation to contain the virus, but has not imposed restrictions on other parts of Europe. The Association of British Insurers has put out information on the implications for travel insurance. If you travel against government advice, you will likely invalidate your insurance.

Or to elsewhere in the world?

Go and enjoy yourself. The only area government advises people to avoid completely because of coronavirus is Hubei, the Chinese province where the virus first emerged. It advises against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China and to the cities of Daegu and Cheongdo in South Korea. Travellers to some parts of Asia may face screening on arrival, and many have imposed restrictions on people who have recently been in China or other affected countries. Officials may deny entry or require people to be quarantined. If you have holiday plans and are concerned about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, talk to your airline or travel company. The situation is moving fast, so for the latest travel guidance see the Public Health England and Foreign and Commonwealth Office websites.

What does self-isolation involve?

People who need to self-isolate should stay at home except when they need medical care. They must avoid work, school, public areas and not use public transport or taxis until told it is safe for them to do so. The person should stay in a separate, well-ventilated room with a window to the outside that can be opened. Ideally, they should use a separate bathroom, but if this is not possible, consider a bathroom rota where the isolated person washes and bathes last and then, if they are well enough, cleans the facilities thoroughly. They should use separate towels from others in the household. Everyone should follow basic hygiene rules: wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when you cough or sneeze, and put used tissues in the bin immediately.

If I’m worried, how can I get a test?

Anyone who fears they have contracted the virus should call NHS 111 as a first port of call. They will assess what you need to do, decide whether you need a test, and if so, where you can go for one. The NHS has begun to pilot home testing for coronavirus in London, so if you have symptoms, you may not need to travel to get tested.

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