Two Edmonton high school trips to Japan have now been cancelled and another trip to Europe is being revised over coronavirus concerns.
Lori Nagy, spokesperson for Edmonton Catholic School District, said the Japan trips had been scheduled for next month; a letter sent to parents said the trip was cancelled over “the ever-evolving status and spread of the disease.”
As of Tuesday, Japan had 860 coronavirus cases, the third highest number behind China and South Korea; 691 of those are passengers who were infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
“We’ve been monitoring the coronavirus and the increase in the number of cases in Japan. This weekend, it seemed to go up even more. We wanted to ensure safety of all students and we decided to cancel the trips,” Nagy said.
Eighty-one students from Mother Margaret Mary High School and St. Francis Xavier High School had signed up for the two trips.
“Administration met on Monday and talked about everything regarding Japan — where the cases were, what kind of impact that could have on our students — and in the end, it really comes down to the health and safety of students,” Nagy said.
ECSD had another trip scheduled for Italy and Spain in March involving roughly 50 students from Austin O’Brien High School and St. Oscar Romero High School. Nagy said the district is now working with the tour company to see whether the trip can be moved to Spain and Portugal instead.
Italy has had a spike in COVID-19 cases, with 229 reported infections and seven deaths as of Tuesday. Italian authorities have effectively placed 10 towns in the Lombardy region under quarantine and cancelled Venice’s annual carnival.
“We really looked at what would the value be to students if they went on that trip. Of course the value would be minimal plus there would be a concern that there could be more coronavirus cases and it would impact the students,” Nagy said.
The district said refunds will be provided if the itinerary cannot be revised or if changes require the board to cancel the trip in its entirety.
“We are monitoring the situation and as soon as we see cases in Spain or Portugal then we’ll really re-evaluate those trips and make a decision,” Nagy said.
Edmonton Public trips still a go
Meanwhile, Edmonton Public Schools is going ahead with school trips to Japan and Italy.
Spokesperson Anna Batchelor said the division will continue to monitor updates and travel advisories to those countries.
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The Japan trip involves 14 students and staff from D.S. MacKenzie Junior High School who will be visiting Osaka, Kyoto, Takayama, Kanazawa and Tokyo.
The Italy trip involves 130 students and staff from five schools — Crestwood School, Queen Elizabeth High School, Victoria School, Vimy Ridge School and Strathcona High School — who will be visiting cities including Milan, Verona and Venice.
Those students will also visit other parts of Europe, including London, Paris and Versailles.
Study abroad programs
The University of Alberta said it is staying in touch with students who are studying abroad.
Julia Jones-Bourque, manager of marking and communications for University of Alberta International, said there are 18 students studying abroad in Italy, two students who are studying in South Korea and four students studying in Japan.
The virus has hit South Korea hard, with 977 cases and 10 deaths reported as of Tuesday.
“They continue to report that they are safe. They are not in areas of concern,” Jones-Bourque said, adding the university follows travel advice and advisories outlined by Global Affairs Canada.
“At this time, the university has not recalled our students studying abroad.”
Jones-Bourque said students are being advised to be aware of coronavirus symptoms and stay updated on information from local and Canadian health authorities.
–with files from Global News’ Leslie Young and The Associated Press