John Paul College is under close watch with up to 30 students returning from a trip to China, and many homestay families are concerned as Chinese students begin to arrive in Rotorua.

"We're doing the best to get our head around it, there are some aspects that are unknown and posing potential risk," said principal Patrick Walsh.

"We're not trying to cause panic. There are concerns that people returning may not show symptoms for up to two weeks and airport checks won't work."

Parents around the country would normally be celebrating as children head back to school, but some might be reconsidering.

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After last week's health scare with four tourists admitted to Rotorua hospital for possible coronavirus, principals are on high alert. But they're taking steps to ensure the safety of Rotorua children.

"Schools are very tight-knit communities," Walsh said. "We're all working in a tight space. Our concern is that the risk of it passing from a student is very high.

"We are sending out a communiqué to students to advise we've set up a task force team. We will be interviewing all students and staff to do initial screening and take appropriate action to ensure we're taking the right steps here at John Paul College."

With the coronavirus outbreak continuing to evolve rapidly, principals are calling for the government to keep their students safe.

"I think that the advice needs to be a bit more specific," Walsh said.

"They need to be advising principals and teachers and asking what are the symptoms? Where do we take them to in the hospital if they refuse to take a blood test?

"Those questions are emerging in more detail. It would be good to get answers for schools with high numbers of international students."

But the Ministry of Health wouldn't comment on these questions and are referring all enquiries to their website - www.health.govt.nz

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