Bible school quarantines students returning from Italy amid coronavirus fears

Capernwray Hall is a 19th-century mansion set in 175 acres of parkland. Capernwray was purchased in 1946 for use as a Christian holiday and conference center. Today, it is also a Bible school. | Geograph/Hywel Williams

A Bible school and Christian holiday center in the United Kingdom has quarantined six students and a teacher who returned from a trip to Italy, which is suffering an outbreak of coronavirus. Several schools in the country are closing or sending pupils home over fears of infection.

Capernwray Hall in Lancashire said it was nothing more than a precautionary measure as the students and the teacher came back after working with a partner church in Milan, which is 40 miles from the lockdown areas in northern Italy.

“We are not worried but we wanted to take extra caution and that is why the decision was made, as a cautionary measure not due to concern,” Capernwray’s managing director, Jonathan Halsey, told Premier. “None of the people have had any symptoms of Coronavirus.”

The returning team was housed in a separate accommodation on the Capernwray campus, about 500 meters away from the main hall.

At least 19 confirmed cases of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, have been reported in the U.K., whose Foreign Office has advised against “all but essential travel” to 11 locked-down towns at the center of the Italian outbreak.

At least eight schools whose students made half-term trips to Italy have closed across the country, from Middlesborough, North Yorkshire, to Harlow in Essex, The Times (of London) reported.

An additional 19 schools have also told students and staff who have visited Italy to stay at home.

As more than 50 countries have reported cases of coronavirus, the World Health Organization has upgraded the global risk of the outbreak to “very high,” according to BBC.

However, WHO clarified that there was still a chance of containing the virus if its chain of transmission were broken.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has delivered updated test kits to the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases in anticipation of more cases.

CDC official Dr. Nancy Messonnier said Friday some earlier tests gave inconclusive results but newly manufactured test kits are reliable and available for order from both domestic and international public health partners, according to The Hill.

Messonnier also said that a CDC team had gone to California to deal with what could be the first case of community spread in the U.S. She said the CDC will be investigating the patient’s recent contact.

On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said 33 people had tested positive for COVID-19 and the state was monitoring at least 8,400 others.

“This is a fluid situation right now and I want to emphasize the risk to the American public remains low,” Dr. Sonia Y. Angell, California Department of Public Health Director and State Health Officer, said during a press conference, according to CNBC. “There have been a limited number of confirmed cases to date.”

China, where the virus originated, announced last week that more than 500 prisoners in five prisons in three provinces had contracted the virus, which has sickened more than 80,000 people and killed at least 2,000 people, according to the South China Morning Post.

Nearly half of the cases were in Rencheng jail in Jining, located in China's eastern province of Shandong. Officials said a prison guard had shown COVID-19 symptoms in early February and that 200 prisoners and seven officers subsequently tested positive for the virus. 

According to persecution watchdog International Christian Concern, Christian human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang has been incarcerated in the same province, and his wife, Li Wenzu, has not been able to learn about his condition, as her regular visit time on Feb. 13 “was canceled due to the ongoing spread of coronavirus.”

The international evangelical humanitarian agency World Vision is spending millions to provide assistance to nearly 400,000 people in China. Sponsoring over 55,000 children and employing 300 staffers in China, World Vision is one of the largest humanitarian aid organizations operating in the country.

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