EXTRA care is being taken in north Essex after the coronavirus was officially declared to be a pandemic.

The World Health Organisation labelled the infection a pandemic after the global death toll soared to just under 5,000.

As a result, institutions, organisations and schools in Colchester and surrounding areas have decided to cancel events, trips and gatherings in a bid to minimise the risk of spreading the virus.

Whizz-kid youngsters from the North Primary School have been left distraught after a decision was made to pull them out of the world finals of a robotics competition in the USA.

The pupils won the right to take part in the contest in Kentucky, but school bosses feared the pupils could potentially contract the virus if they travelled overseas.

The youngsters will instead be treated to a trip to London to ease their disappointment.

Essex County Scouts and Girlguiding Essex Counties has also decided to cancel the Essex International Jamboree which was due to take place in August.

The decision was made after being told by insurers that any claims made in respect of coronavirus would unlikely be covered.

A spokesman for the groups said: “We are aware this is extremely disappointing for the 9,000 plus participants, leaders and volunteer staff.”

Although some school trips have been cancelled, schools themselves are set to remain open, according to Essex County Council.

It had been reported schools across the country could be closed for a month so deep cleans could take place.

Teachers were said to be being told to prepare special kits for students so they could continue to learn while at home.


But Essex County Council has now said this is not the case and schools will continue to be open as normal.

A spokesman added: “There are currently no plans to shut schools in Essex because of the virus and we have not yet been advised to do so.

“We are following advice from the Government and the schools will continue to run as usual for the time being.”

Some GP surgeries, however, have decided to shut or put in place visiting restrictions.

The Elizabeth Courtauld Surgery, in Halstead, has halted its open access clinic service as a precautionary measure, despite there being no confirmed cases of the virus in the area.

Dr Kreis, from the surgery, said the measures have been put in place to protect patients.

He said: “We have patients with chronic illnesses and can’t afford to expose them to the virus.

“However, we know there might be people out there who come in anyway.

“In the event of this, we have set up a second waiting room, separated from the main waiting room.”

The Colne Medical Centre, in Brightlingsea, has also opted to alter its open surgery arrangements in light of the ever-changing situation regarding the coronavirus.

Residents suffering from virus symptoms are advised to call the surgery before 10am for a telephone triage appointment with a GP.

Anyone who turns up at the surgery in the morning with symptoms will be asked to return home.


Some, however, are choosing to remain calm and carry on despite the rise in Covid-19 cases.

Public meetings being staged to discuss a new nuclear power station at Bradwell have been postponed.

Many football games have been either cancelled or played behind closed doors but Colchester United’s forthcoming fixture will still go ahead.

The U’s are taking on Scunthorpe United at home tomorrow and fans are still allowed to attend the match.

Performing arts venues in the town such as Colchester Arts Centre, the Headgate Theatre, Charter Hall and Three Wise Monkeys, are also continuing to open as normal. They are, however, closely monitoring the developing situation.

A spokesman from Colchester Events Company said: “Like everyone else we are reviewing the guidance and advice from Government and Public Health England and the impact that has in relation to events.”

Gazette: Mark CoryMark Cory

Since the virus was declared a pandemic, Colchester Council has said it is taking its responsibility to help prevent the spread of coronavirus “very seriously” and is closely monitoring the situation.

During a cabinet meeting on Wednesday night, council leader Mark Cory reassured residents.

In a bid to mitigate the concerns regarding Covid-19, which is now responsible for ten deaths in the UK, Mr Cory promised deep cleans of public places.

He added the authority was also looking into how it can continue to provide residents with vital services to those who need it most.

He said: “Colchester Council is taking its responsibilities very seriously to help prevent the spread of this virus. We are monitoring the situation closely.

“We are increasing the cleaning of public places and making preparations to ensure we are able to continue delivering critical services.

“We will continue to monitor the advice and guidance and keep reviewing the actions we are taking to ensure they are appropriate and proportionate.

“I would also encourage all residents to follow the public health messages around the steps they can take to prevent the spread of this virus.”

In a bid to combat the risk to elderly people, who are most vulnerable to the virus, some care homes are taking additional precautions.

Woodland View Care Home, in Colchester, has made the decision to cancel activities and guidelines have been set for relatives who may be under the weather.

A spokesman for the home said: “We are not doing any activities and any external activities coming to the home have been cancelled.

“Family members are still allowed to visit relatives living at the home but if they have a cold or show any symptoms, they will not be allowed to come inside.”

Staff at Corner Lodge Care Home in Jaywick have been instructed to establish whether or not visitors are displaying coronavirus symptoms before allowing them into the building.

Home manager Ludmila Simalova said: “Except from doing extra in terms of deep cleaning, we are also taking our visitors’ temperature and if the temperature is higher than 37.5 degrees we ask them politely to come another day.

“The public has been well informed, and all our visitors are happy to co-operate with us.”

Johnno Casson, who runs Colchester’s Warm and Toasty Club for the elderly, has said the meet-ups will now be cancelled.

He said: ''After hearing the advice from the Government, and the scientists and medical experts, and then discussing it in-depth, we have taken the decision to pause all of our events to ensure the well being of our our guests, team and the wider community - particularly as it relates to the higher than normal risks for the older people we work with. 

 ''We have carefully weighed up the risks across the board and have come to the conclusion that we need to pause activities to ensure everyone remains safe and well.

“The health and wellbeing of our participants and staff is paramount.''