New Brunswick

International travellers ordered to avoid schools for 2 weeks amid COVID-19 outbreak: memo

Students and chaperones who have returned or will return from international travel must avoid public schools, early learning facilities and district offices for two weeks from the date of their return, according to a memo from Education Minister Dominic Cardy sent to parents Monday evening.

Education department expands precautionary measures against coronarivus outbreak

New Brunswick Education Minister Dominic Cardy says anyone returning from international travel after March 8 must avoid schools, early learning facilities and district offices for two weeks from the date of their return. (CBC)

Students and chaperones who have returned or will return from international travel must avoid public schools for two weeks from the date of their return, according to a memo from Education Minister Dominic Cardy.​​​

The notice sent to parents Monday evening further expands the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development's precautionary measures against COVID-19 as the number of cases increases worldwide.

The order retroactively affects individuals — children, students, staff, volunteers and family members — returning after this past Sunday and includes early learning facilities and school district offices. It does not specify any particular country in the reference to "international travel." 

CBC News has asked for clarification.

The minister also announced all international school-related travel has been cancelled for the remainder of the school year.

The memo sent from Education Minister Dominic Cardy to parents on Monday evening. (Jill Foster/Submitted)

The news comes as a one Moncton-area mother expressed concerns about high school students returning from Europe this week. Jill Foster said travellers should be told to self-quarantine as a precaution against COVID-19.

About 50 Bernice MacNaughton High School students and chaperons departed Feb. 28 to visit Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France. They began the return trip Monday. 

Foster's two daughters attend the Moncton school, but they weren't on the trip. Prior to receiving the memo, she said the province should impose restrictions given the spread of the illness in countries the students visited. 

"I just think it might be a smart idea to err on the side of caution and have them quarantine themselves," Foster said in an interview.

Several dozen students from Bernice MacNaughton High School in Moncton are returning from a trip to Europe this week. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

Education Minister Dominic Cardy said Monday before the memo was sent the countries visited by the students aren't among those on a travel health notice list maintained by the federal government. But he said he expects an announcement about changes to the list within 24 hours.

He declined to comment on Foster's concerns. 

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the coronavirus — climbed by hundreds in Germany and France while the Bernice MacNaughton students were in Europe. 

There were 1,116 confirmed cases in France as of Monday, according to the World Health Organization. There were 1,112 confirmed cases in Germany.

However, those two countries aren't subject to the same travel advisories or post-travel restrictions as northern Italy, where the outbreak has been more severe. More than 7,300 cases have been reported in that country as of Monday.

Travellers asked to self-monitor

Dr. Cristin Muecke, New Brunswick's acting chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference Monday that anyone who has travelled internationally should self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after they return to Canada.

Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing, which can take up to 14 days to appear. 

Cardy on Friday announced that anyone who has travelled to countries rated at a risk level of two or three will be ordered to stay home from public schools or early learning facilities for 14 days after they return home. 

That was expanded to include students from the Sussex-area who had travelled to central and southern Italy, areas that weren't on the list.

While the ​​​countries Bernice MacNaughton students visited are seeing an increase in cases, they're not subject to the same travel guidelines or requirements to self-quarantine. The step is also above the precautions New Brunswick public health officials have recommended.

Foster said she's worried about a student returning to school with COVID-19 and the possibility it could then spread. Foster said her daughters have daily contact with their grandparents, including one who is prone to lung issues already.

She said she initially wasn't concerned about the trip, but then the number of cases in countries the students visited began climbing by the hundreds over recent days.

"I would just like just to feel safe myself and to feel safe letting my kids go to school," Foster said. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada, which assesses the risk around COVID-19, has said the risk in Canada is low.

First death in Canada

The first COVID-19 death in Canada was announced in British Columbia on Monday.

While the majority of confirmed cases have been in China, the number of cases has risen in other nations, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.

There were 110,029 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 105 countries, the World Health Organization reported Monday. More than 3,800 people have died.

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