Image caption
An almost empty classroom in Killinchy Primary

Nine schools across Northern Ireland have closed this week due to an outbreak of the winter vomiting bug.

Two North Down post-primaries, St Columbanus’ College and Bangor Academy, were the latest to announce temporary closure.

Both will be shut on Friday for a deep clean to try combat the Norovirus.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has said that they have seen an increase in cases in schools this winter, but within expected levels.

Four of the nine schools who so far have announced temporary closures for a deep clean are in Bangor.

As well as the two post-primaries, Clandeboye Primary and Bangor Central Integrated Primary closed for a day this week.

Other schools to close for a deep clean were Bunscoil Mhic Reactain and McArthur Nursery School in Belfast, Hollybush Primary in Londonderry and Tannaghmore Primary School in Craigavon.

Killinchy Primary in County Down also closed on Monday.

‘Never experienced this’

However, the levels of sickness in the school have continued to rise with more than half of its 350 pupils off.

The school’s principal Chris Currie described the situation as unprecedented.

“I’ve been a principal for seven years and a teacher for nine years before that and I’ve never experienced anything like this at all,” he said.

Image caption
Chris Currie is principal of Killinchy Primary School

“The biggest problem now that we’re facing is that it’s starting to roll into the staff.”

“We have five teaching staff and three classroom assistants sick so it’s had an impact on trying to merge classes, get sub teachers in place and try to make sure that some form of education continues.”

“The caretaker and the cleaning team have been rotating their cleaning products, making sure all surfaces are wiped down.”

“We’re making sure that we’re not shaking hands, making sure that we’re not drinking from the same cups.”

Image caption
This class in Killinchy Primary only had five pupils well enough to attend

“We’ve changed all of the soaps in the toilets, it’s a full-time effort at the moment.”

“Everything we normally would do as a school has been parked to try to cope with this crisis and stop the spread of this bug.”

Mr Currie also said that a number of pupils due to sit the AQE transfer tests had fallen sick.

“We have 47 children in Primary 7 and only five of them are present today and two of them are sitting the test,” he said.

“We know a number of children who weren’t able to sit the test last week and definitely won’t be able to sit the test this week and we’re now looking at special measures to try and provide for those children come results time.”

Winter vomiting bug

Norovirus, also called the “winter vomiting bug”, is a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

It can be very unpleasant but usually goes away in about two days.

Advice for treatment is:

  • Stay off school or work until the symptoms have stopped for two days
  • Avoid visiting anyone in hospital during this time
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink lots of fluids, such as water or squash – take small sips if you feel sick.

Source: NHS

Image caption
Dr Philip Veal from the PHA advised those who have the bug to stay off

Dr Philip Veal from the Public Health Agency said that schools had been hit harder by the bug this winter.

“It is fair to say there is perhaps more within schools at this stage than we have seen in previous years.

“But every year we do see transmission within schools and our messages are the same.

“Stay off school if you’re sick, wash your hands and together we can stop the spread of this infection.”

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