THE number of people diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK had risen to 273 last night and the Government says there are six cases in Essex.

Almost 70 additional cases had been confirmed yesterday, according to Public Health England.

The Government says there are thought to be six cases in the county and there are 23 cases in the East of England.

One is a confirmed case in Southend and another is in Harlow.

In order to prevent the spread, people are being advised to wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds, catch coughs and sneezes in tissues and avoid touching their faces.

More on coronavirus

Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, tiredness, breathing difficulties and coughing.

Anyone concerned they have the disease should call NHS 111 and NOT go to the GP surgery or hospital to avoid passing it on.

Virus hits south Essex

THE first coronavirus case has been confirmed in south Essex after the father of a pupil at a Leigh school tested positive for Covid-19.

Parents received an email from Belfairs Academy principal, Bev Williams, on Friday morning explaining the family were self-isolating following the diagnosis.

Last night, the Department of Health confirmed a total of six people in Essex had tested positive.

In relation to the Southend case in which a father tested positive, Belfairs Academy stressed the pupil had tested negative, but was continuing to self-isolate.

Mrs Williams said the school would remain open after advice from Public Health England.

The email to parents, from Mrs Williams – also chief executive of Legra Academy Trust which runs the school – said: “I wanted to make you aware that the father of a student at Belfairs Academy has tested positive for coronavirus.

The child has not tested positive.

“Acting on advice, the family are self-isolating as a precaution.

As you would expect, I have taken advice from Public Health England and the World Health Organisation who have made it clear to me that we should take no further action at this time.

“As ever, the health and safety of our children and staff remain a top priority.

“We will keep in regular contact with Public Health England and if advice changes, we will let you know immediately.

“In the meantime, if you or your child experience any symptoms, please contact NHS 111 for advice.”

Parents contacted the Echo after the letter was emailed to parents on Friday morning.

One parent of a Year 7 pupil, who did not want to be named, said: “I can’t praise the school enough. There was a swift, but measured response which informed people quickly.

“I suspect there will be a number of parents who will keep their child off school but the advice seems absolutely clear – nobody who has the virus is at the school and therefore it is fine to keep it open.”

However, another parent who would not be named, said: “The email is very vague. It is very worrying that it is so close to home.

“I’m also concerned that there was a parents’ evening recently. I believe the public deserve to know the locations of the infected.”

Southend Labour councillor Anne Jones, cabinet member for children and learning, urged parents to make the best decision for their youngsters when it comes to deciding whether they send them to school.

She said: “I’m not in a position to give advice – I’m not a doctor or the director of public health – but I am a parent and understand other parents will have concerns.

“For everyone involved, the worst time for this to break would be on a Friday because you end up having two days where you just worry about what the situation will be on the Monday.

“It is a matter of choice for the parents.

“Usually, if your child is not showing any symptoms, then you would send them to school, but you have to act in the best interests of your children.

“This is an unprecedented situation and I know there will be concerns.”

Ms Jones said the school should carry on communicating regularly with parents.