Sussex students ordered to stay home for 2 weeks after school trip to Italy
Students were supposed to travel to northern Italy this week but went to Vatican City and Florence instead
Students from Sussex Regional High School travelling in Italy this week have been ordered to avoid returning to school for two weeks after they return home Saturday, New Brunswick's education minister announced Friday afternoon.
Nearly 30 students from Sussex Regional High School travelled to southern Italy this week for March Break. Italy has been the European country hardest hit by the coronavirus.
"As with any actions there can be consequences and in this case, it's going to require a couple of weeks away from school," Education Minister Dominic Cardy said.
The Sussex students originally planned to travel to Milan and Venice in northern Italy. Because of the coronavirus cases in the north, they visited Florence and Rome, 250 and 530 kilometres south of Venice.
Just days before the week-long trip, teachers and group leaders considered cancelling it altogether. The day the students were set to leave, also considered travelling in Germany instead.
During Friday's news conference, Cardy said the trip to Italy was "ill-advised."
"People should think carefully about travelling to places that are clearly identified as being at risk."
Death toll rises in Italy
The death toll from the outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has risen by 49 to 197, the Civil Protection Agency said Friday. This was the largest daily increase in fatalities since the contagion was uncovered two weeks ago.
The cumulative number of cases in the country totalled 4,636 against 3,858 on Thursday.
The head of the agency said that of the people originally infected, 523 had fully recovered.
Even Vatican City was hit by the virus, with the tiny city-state confirming its first case Friday but not saying who was infected.
The province has also said that anyone who has travelled to countries at a level-2 or 3 risk level for coronavirus assessed by the Canadian government will also be ordered to stay home from public schools or early learning facilities for 14 days after they return home.
Those countries include:
- Northern Italy
- South Korea
- Hong Kong
"As an increased level of precaution, those who have travelled within any part of Italy will be required to follow the same directive for the countries listed above," a news release from the New Brunswick government said.
The trip to Italy was organized by teachers and parents through EF Educational Tour Canada.
It is not district or school-sanctioned, according to Anglophone School District South superintendent Zoe Watson.
Information will be voluntary
The province also said additional measures are being taken to address anxiety in New Brunswick schools, early learning facilities and communities and "to ensure that we have taken all necessary means to respond to the current situation."
"We want to make sure we're as well-prepared as possible," Cardy said.
His department said it understands this will require parents and members of the community to voluntarily notify school officials when someone at a school has been to a country where an outbreak has occurred.
If students, staff, family members or volunteers who have been to those countries arrive at school, the department said they will be asked to return home by the school principal.
To date, there haven't been any coronanvirus cases reported in New Brunswick. But Cardy said it's not a question of if the virus will arrive but when.
"This isn't about being afraid. This is about planning to combat fear."
Wash your hands
On Thursday, Dr. Cristin Muecke said the Department of Health is not recommending school closures or the use of masks when students return from March break next week.
Instead, she said students and staff who have been travelling should self-monitor for 14 days and watch for symptoms.
She said travellers coming back from Iran or Hubei province in China are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
The Department of Health also advised people to protect themselves from germs by washing hands often, avoiding contact with people who are sick, staying home when sick, sneezing and coughing into their sleeves, and avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
Anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus, such as fever, cough or breathing problems, should isolate themselves from others as soon as possible, call a health care professional or TeleCare 811.
With files from the Associated Press