Devon’s schools are being urged to follow Public Health England advice over how they respond to the coronavirus outbreak but there is no reason for them to close at present.

Dr Phil Norrey, Devon County Council's chief executive, a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, March 11 that they were in hourly contact with Public Health England and health system over the impact of the coronavirus.

He said that it was a very dynamic issue and they were taking the advice when it comes, and added: 'When the advice changes, we will issue it to you instantly. It is important that we manage the outbreak.'

The latest guidance being issued by Devon County Council states: 'At the present time, there's a low risk for anyone attending our schools. On advice from the chief medical officer, the risk has been declared as 'moderate'.

'This level allows the government to plan for all eventualities but that ultimately, the risk to individuals remains 'low'.

'No school should close in response to a suspected (or confirmed) Covid-19 case unless directed to do so by Public Health England.

'You should continue to send your child to school unless they're unwell or have been advised to self-isolate.'

As of 9am on March 11, a total of 27,476 people had been tested with 27,020 negative tests and 456 positive test. Six patients who tested positive for coronavirus have died.

Latest figures say there are 460 positive test cases and eight deaths.

Figures showed there were 20 positives tests in Devon - 13 in the Devon County Council administrative area and seven in the Torbay Council area.

Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the Labour group, said that the potential impact on schools was one that his group were concerned about and what could happen if they were forced to closed, while Cllr Alistair Dewhirst added that some of the members of the council were within the 'vulnerable groups'.

North Devon councillor Frank Biederman also asked what advice was being given directly to schools, with concerns overnight about one of the schools in his area and a news report.

Dr Virginia Pearson, the Director of Public Health, said that they had a 'very good idea' in terms of what is happening in the county and that the advice from Public Health England was clear.

She added: 'The issue is when schools have made their own decisions which are not consistent with PHE advice and our advice.

'There is a balance between keeping things going and keeping them educated and on track for their exams, and shutting schools. The repercussions are significant if we shut all schools across the county. We are trying to make sure all schools act in line with PHE advice.'

The PHE advice is that face masks for the general public, pupils or students, or staff are not recommended to protect from infection, as there is no evidence of benefit from their use outside healthcare environments.

People who have returned from Category 1 specified countries/areas in the last 14 days should self-isolate. This includes avoiding attending an education setting or work until 14 days after they return.

People who have returned from Category 2 specified countries/areas in the last 14 days, are advised to stay at home if they develop symptoms.

All other pupils or students and staff should continue to attend school or university, including their siblings attending the same or a different school (unless advised not to by public health officials).

If anyone has been in contact with a suspected case in a childcare or educational setting, no restrictions or special control measures are required while laboratory test results for Covid-19 are awaited. There is no need to close the setting or send other learners or staff home.

Dr Norrey added that based on the experience of what had happened in Italy, when all schools closed, many parents formed support groups and brought their children together, which eventually had the same impact.

He added that the individual school closures in Devon that had taken place had an immediate impact on care provision and therefore difficult judgements at a local level have to be made.