Schools have upped safety measures to keep coronavirus at bay, with some going as far as cancelling indoor assemblies and refusing to correct sick students' homework.

They seem to be following directions from the teachers’ union which on Monday said it was “concerned” about the “lack of direction” to schools as they were gearing up to open their doors after the midterm break.

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Emails circulated by schools seen by Times of Malta inform parents that there is no need to create unnecessary panic, however, children and educators who visited China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Iran and the North of Italy above Tuscany should self-quarantine.

No homework will be accepted from students who are unwell and indoor mass gatherings, such as assemblies, will be stopped for now.

The authorities on Tuesday said there was no need for extreme measures like avoiding crowds or not sending children to school.

Schools are meanwhile being urged by a teachers' union to send home any students who are unwell, and re-admit them only if they have a medical certificate certifying that they are fit for school.

Some schools have taken it further: they have asked students to dress warmly as they will be switching off ACs to ensure proper ventilation, hung up educational posters about basic hygiene procedures and placed several hand-sanitisers around the school.

Other students are being asked to bring antiseptic wipes with them, and teachers or carers will be encouraging them to wash or wipe their hands regularly.

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'Self-quarantine if you have visited affected countries'

Late on Monday, the health and education ministries called on school staff and students to self-quarantine if they visited the affected countries. If they develop symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath, they should call 2132 4086 for guidance. 

People should not go to health centres, casualty or visit their doctor in person, but should instead call their GP, the ministries warned.

This also applied to all employees who travelled to affected countries – workers should be considered as excused on presentation of travel evidence. 

Travellers should avoid non-essential travel to countries with presumed ongoing transmission of Covid-19, the authorities are urging.

No guidelines for school transport

A spokesman for Coop Services said that the company, which provides school transport, was itself concerned as it had not received guidelines.

"Schools are urging teachers and students not to turn up for work if they are ill and some have also stopped holding indoor events.

"Vans are confined spaces, and most vehicles are brand new, meaning they are equipped with ACs and windows don't open all the way," he said.

At any point in time, vans can carry around 16 students, a teacher or supervisor and the driver.

On Wednesday evening, the Union of Professional Educators issued directives to its members in response to coronavirus concerns. 

It said its teachers would not assign or correct homework from sick students and would not attend any mass gatherings.

Its members would also report and refuse to teach pupils with flu-like symptoms and would not accept students back to school without a doctor's certificate.

They would also not supervise children exhibiting flu-like symptoms waiting to be picked up from school.

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