Jewish schools began issuing guidance to students and parents this week in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Family travel during the recent half-term holiday, including to northern Italy, may place schools at risk, educators said, urging schoolchildren to quarantine themselves, in some cases even if they show no symptoms of illness.
Among the Jewish schools posting advice to parents were JFS and Akiva, which said they had been using notifications from Public Health England, while JCoSS said families needed to keep the school informed.
“In view of the recent half term holiday, we ask parents to check the advice and follow the instructions,” the school said. “If any of these apply to you, whether or not there are any symptoms, please inform us as quickly as possible so that we can consider any further precautions to protect the school community.”
According to guidance from Public Health England, anyone told to self-isolate must “not go to work, school, or public areas, and do not use public transport or taxis”.
It advises people to “stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened, separate from other people in your home,” adding: “Keep the door closed and use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household, if available.”
Beyond the classroom, major communal organisations such as United Synagogue said it was preparing to issue guidance to members, with more substantial plans soon to be sent to community leaders.
A Reform Judaism spokesperson said: “As a precautionary measure, we are following Public Health England guidelines and ensuring our staff are aware of the advice given. We urge all our communities to familiarise themselves with any relevant local or national advice, and to ensure they check regularly for updates.”
The UK Government has said anyone returning from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau in the last 14 days and who “is experiencing cough or fever or shortness of breath” should stay indoors and call NHS 111, even if symptoms are mild.
Meanwhile in Israel around 1,600 people were under quarantine this week, amid fear that the country was ill-prepared, despite protestations from major Israeli hospitals and emergency services organisations that they are well-equipped. On Wednesday, Magen David Adom said it had so-far trained 145 Israeli paramedics to take samples from “individuals in solitary confinement”.
The flu-like virus originated in China in December and has already killed thousands of people.
While its increase appears to be waning in China, it has spread to top holiday destinations.