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Wuhan, China. Photo: Getty Images

Government issues coronavirus advice for parents of school children

Australia’s health department has released advice to parents of school children on dealing with the risk of the coronavirus.

Parents of children who had contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus are being urged to keep them at home and to monitor them for symptoms, but those who spent school holidays in China, including in Wuhan and Hubei, can return to school.

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said that any child who has been in contact with a person confirmed as having novel coronavirus must not attend school or childcare for 14 days after the last contact with the infected person.

That two-week period represents the understood incubation period for the disease. “After this time the child is considered not to be at risk of infection,” Chant said.

The health department added that students who spent time in Wuhan and Hubei should be carefully monitored for symptoms of coronavirus infection.

“The most common symptom is a fever,” said Chant. “Other symptoms include cough, sore throat and shortness of breath.”

Any Australian who exhibits these symptoms should be isolated immediately from other people and seek medical attention as soon as possible, the health department said.

Yesterday, New Zealand’s education department urged staff and students who may be at high risk of exposure because they have recently been to China or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with the virus to delay the start of their school year for 14 days and voluntarily stay away.

Some Australian private schools were reported to have taken a similarly more stringent approach, isolating students who have recently visited China or telling them to stay away for at least a fortnight.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan told ABC radio on Tuesday that while individual schools make their own decisions, the advice from the Australian government is to follow the advice of the health department.

Tehan and his department secretary have spoken to their state and territory counterparts to ensure their advice is heeded.

Per the health department, anyone who develops a fever, a cough, sore throat or shortness of breath within 14 days of travel to Hubei or contact with a person with confirmed coronavirus should immediately isolate themselves from other people and contact their GP or emergency department or call the healthdirect helpline 1800 022 222 and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

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