The independent London newspaper

First Islington coronavirus case is confirmed

PM Johnson warns of ‘worst public health crisis for a generation’

13 March, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking yesterday

THE coronavirus landed in Islington this week with the first official case recorded in the borough and more expected over the coming days as further tests are carried out.

Last night (Thursday), Boris Johnson said new government advice for anyone with a persistent cough or feverish temperature is to stay at home for seven days.

And as the Prime Minister called it the “worst public health crisis for a generation”, further developments in Islington saw:

• students told that assignments would be sent out electronically, rather than on campus;

• a protest march against a new Ocado depot planned for Tufnell Park cancelled;

• uncertainty over whether Arsenal will play their remaining fixtures this season.

• calls for City Hall elections planned for May to be postponed; and

• moves to reassure parents of youngsters at a primary school where the father of a pupil has tested positive.

The pandemic, as it was classified for the first time this week by the World Health Organisation, has seen more than 120,000 infections and more than 4,000 deaths.

Health officials maintain that one of the strongest ways to slow down the spread is regular hand-washing.

People are urged to call the NHS’s 111 line if they develop symptoms rather than heading to GP surgeries or walk-in centres.

Those with milder symptoms were told to look on the NHS111 website for guidance.

Ten British people have died from Covid-19 so far, with 596 confirmed infections. More than 10,000 across the country may already have it, health officials suggested.

Mr Johnson, urging people to work together to help stop the spread and protect vulnerable and elderly residents, said: “Many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”

The government’s response is now in a “delay” phase with the aim of putting back the peak of the outbreak to warmer months and spreading that peak over a longer period of time so that the health service is not overloaded.

Schools across the borough remain open, as per government guidance, although school trips abroad will be banned from today (Friday).

The government has not yet restricted large public events or gatherings; – measures already taken in several countries on the Continent. In Scotland, gatherings of more than 500 people have been stopped.

Arsenal’s Premier League fixture at Brighton and Hove Albion tomorrow (Saturday) has been called off after Mikel Arteta, the club’s manager tested positive. The first team is isolating while talks are ongoing behind the scenes at the Premier League as to whether some matches should be played in empty stadiums or cancelled completely.

At the Town Hall, council leader Richard Watts said council decisions would be taken in light of national advice and led by its public health experts.

A Covid-19 homelessness taskforce is meeting this afternoon at Union Chapel to discuss how to limit infections among vulnerable rough sleepers in Islington.

Streets Kitchen founder Jon Glackin said representatives from the council, Tricky Period, Shelter from the Storm, Museum of Homelessness, The Outside Project and The Margins Project will take part in the meeting.

“We need to be sitting down together and finding simple solutions,” Mr Glackin added.

“I’m hoping that a group decision can be reached to work together and find solutions. We have a duty of care to the homeless and to our volunteers. I see rough sleepers who have no access to hand sanitiser or even anywhere to wash their hands. They are being turned away by security.

“We’ve been taking people’s temperatures, but if they have a high temperature or any other symptoms, where are they supposed to self-isolate? There’s nowhere for them to go. People need to help each other.”

Homeless charities also sent a letter to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on Wednesday, calling for Mildmay Hospital in Shoreditch to be opened to homeless people who have the virus.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission called for May’s mayoral and London Assembly elections to be postponed until the autumn “to mitigate the impact on voters, campaigners and electoral administrators”.

Labour St Peter’s ward councillor Alice Clarke-Perry also called for the elections to be postponed, adding: “We all have a responsibility to each other to do everything we can to delay the spread [of] Covid-19 and protect those most vulnerable.”

London Metropolitan University yesterday emailed students to tell them that all teaching and assessments would be delivered online from March 23, rather than at its Holloway or Aldgate campus. Students were urged by Vice-Chancellor Lynn Dobbs to continue to follow Public Health England advice.

Parents of children at Highgate Hill Academy in Archway, meanwhile, were told on Tuesday there was “nothing to worry about” after a staff member was revealed to be self-isolating.

Earlier in the week it was also confirmed that a parent of a Yerbury Primary School pupil had tested positive for the virus, although the school moved to reassure families that the patient had not been in school grounds for around a month.

It is understood the parent lives in Islington, and was diagnosed on March 5, suggesting a delay in official figures being updated for the borough.

Yerbury School headteacher Cassie Moss broke the news in an email to parents on Thursday last week, and confirmed the Archway school would remain open on the advice of Public Health England.

Her message read: “A parent in the school community has tested positive for the coronavirus [Covid-19] and is in self-isolation along with their family.

“We have spoken to the parent and want to reassure you that they are currently experiencing mild symptoms and are well in themselves.

“The parent has not been in the school, or playground, for around a month. The rest of the family currently present with no symptoms.”

A planned march from Navigator Square on March 29 against food delivery chain Ocado’s proposed delivery hub next to the school has been cancelled after organisers met with police and council officials.

Cycle Islington cancelled their scheduled monthly meeting yesterday (Thursday) at the Town Hall, over virus concerns.

Central Foundation Boys’ School has already had a deep clean after a group of schoolboys came back from a recent skiing trip in Italy. None of the pupils tested positive for the virus after a period of self-isolation.

The Ritchie Street GP surgery also had a deep clean after a patient presented with symptoms consistent with the virus last month. The patient went on to test negative, and the surgery is open as usual.


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