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Cases of coronavirus in Kingston keep rising as NHS declares the highest level of risk

By Nicole M Pihan Mar 6, 2020

Kingston University plans to remain open despite the first cases of coronavirus confirmed in the local area.

As cases continue to rise in the UK, a spokeswoman for Kingston University said students should go about their normal routine.
“The health, welfare and safety of all our students and staff remains our top priority as the UK continues to deal with the ongoing public health implications of the coronavirus outbreak.

“The University remains open as usual, and students and staff are encouraged to go about their study and work as normal unless they have travelled to particular areas or are experiencing specific symptoms, in which instance they should follow the latest government advice.”

Travel Republic on London Road in Norbiton was closed on Tuesday morning after a staff member at the travel agency tested positive for COVID-19.

Bedelsford School, which is close to Kingston School of Art (KSA), was closed following a suspected case of coronavirus affecting a staff member although there are plans to reopen the school next week.

It was also believed that at least one former KU student was self-isolating after fears she had picked up the virus in Northern Italy.

The Kingston Academy building

On Thursday afternoon, another case of the virus was verified in a secondary school on Richmond Road in Kingston, by their official statement.

An official statement stated: “It was confirmed yesterday evening that a pupil at The Kingston Academy has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus following a recent return from a Category 2 area.”

By Thursday night, there were 116 confirmed cases in the UK with three cases in Surrey and 25 in London.

With the first death in the UK confirmed to be a patient with “underlying health conditions” from Berkshire, health experts are warning that deaths in Britain were inevitable.

The NHS declared the highest level of emergency in reaction to the rise in confirmed cases following an emergency COBRA meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

KU said that it had put safety measures in place to protect students and urged them to wash their hands regularly.

“We are urging all members of our university community to remember to follow the advice from the Department for Health and Social Care, which has just launched its new coronavirus public health campaign to tackle the spread of the virus in the UK.

“We are urging everyone to wash their hands more often than usual – for 20 seconds each time with soap and water – or to use hand sanitiser. This is particularly important when people arrive home or at their place of work or study, blow their noses, sneeze or cough, or are preparing to eat or handle food.

“Following these simple steps will help protect all of us and other people we come into contact with each day.

“The University has increased the amount of soap and hand wash on its campuses and, as an added precaution, has distributed disinfectant wipes to all libraries and teaching areas with open access computers so keyboard surfaces can be wiped down before and after use.

Empty shelves of hand sanitisers

“This is particularly important when people arrive home or at their place of work or study, blow their noses, sneeze or cough, or are preparing to eat or handle food.”

Additionally, professor Mark Fielder, a microbiologist at KU, said: “I would suggest at the moment wiping your phone over with an alcohol wipe, and perhaps don’t share your phone around.”

But local stores already had shortages of essential items including hand sanitisers and antibacterial soaps.

The University said anyone who has travelled outside the UK recently or is experiencing specific flu-like symptoms should follow the latest government advice, which might include self-isolation.

The University said: “NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be accessed by anyone currently in the United Kingdom, whether or not they are registered with a GP.

“To avoid possible spread of the virus, it’s important not to go to a health centre or hospital to seek medical advice in person but to call NHS 111 and inform them of any symptoms and recent travel as a first step.

“There is more information available to help any students or staff who need to self-isolate on government advice. Students can contact their tutors to discuss the situation further.”

Any students or staff who have an underlying health condition, are pregnant or have any other health concerns which they believe might put them at a higher risk, should discuss these with their GP in the first instance or call NHS 111 for further advice.

Anyone planning to travel abroad should visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website for the latest advice on all overseas destinations.

The University spokeswoman added: “Regular health and travel updates are being posted on the My Kingston and StaffSpace intranets, while posters and digital screens containing guidance to minimise the spread of infection are being displayed on all university sites.

“The University will also email students and staff about any significant changes, and we encourage everyone to check these channels regularly for the latest advice.”

Muge Cevik, an infectious diseases researcher at St Andrew’s University, encouraged people to be more conscious about their personal hygiene instead, and that people should be alarmed but not panicked.

“What I mean is that everyone needs to be aware that there is an infection and there is an outbreak of a new virus,” she said.

KSA student Jean Zheng, from China, said she wears a mask because “it is a better way of protecting ourselves and our classmates”.

PM Johnson said: “The most important thing now is that we prepare against a possible very significant expansion of coronavirus in the UK population.  It is much more likely than not that we will face a challenge in the weeks and months ahead.”

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty said that a huge epidemic in the UK is “now likely” and that the virus meant “we would expect deaths”.

He described how, in a worst-case scenario, 80 per cent of the country could be affected.

The FCO has advised against all travel to Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, and all but essential travel to mainland China where over 3,000 people have died from the virus.

On Thursday evening, 98,430 people had been infected, with 3,395 dead worldwide.

People returning from Iran, areas in lockdown in Northern Italy and South Korea are all expected to self-isolate for at least 14 days.

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