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Thames Valley District School Board cancels class trips to Europe as COVID-19 spreads

A total of 169 Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) students in high school have had their march break trips aboard cancelled due to growing COVID-19 concerns. Getty Images

A total of 169 Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) high school students have had their March break trips abroad cancelled due to growing COVID-19 concerns.

A board representative tells Global News notices were sent home with students Tuesday.

The decision impacts sevens schools and eight trips that were set to go to mainland Europe, as the number of those infected by the virus grows in places like France, Germany, and Spain — all destinations students were scheduled to visit.

As of March 2, the World Health Organization said the total number of cases globally is at 88,948 confirmed cases, with 129 cases in Germany, 100 in France, and 45 in Spain.

READ MORE: 2 new cases of Coronavirus in Ontario, total now at 20 in province

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“We did not think we would necessarily be here because we had not heard about coronavirus a month ago, and we find ourselves in a really terrible situation,” said TVDSB representative Doriana Rosati.

“We really don’t want to compromise the health or security and well-being of anybody.”

In an effort to curb the spread of the virus, France closed the world-famous Louvre Museum, a destination Rosati said was a main stop for some of the trips.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Two dead, 79 infected in Italy as government shuts down worst hit areas

The trips were all set to happen over March break, with one class trip to Ireland still going ahead. The risk to students travelling to Ireland at this time remains low, with only one confirmed case.

“The fear is not only contracting the virus but being quarantined and the exponential growth in the number of cases,” Rosati said.

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Over a week ago, Italy, which has the highest number of COVID-19 outbreaks, announced the shutdown of two of its worst-hit regions, with the government adopting special powers to stop people from leaving or entering the worst impacted zones.

Rosati said all the students were covered under a travel insurance plan that will refund the students the bulk of the costs minus a non-refundable deposit of about $388. She added that there will, however, be a claims process to determine if families will be refunded the deposit.

Meanwhile, two new cases in Ontario bring the provincial total to 20 and the total for all of Canada is at 29, with eight cases in British Columbia and one in Quebec.