International school trips for P.E.I. students cancelled over coronavirus fears

The province announced Tuesday it is cancelling all school-planned travel abroad, in the wake of fears of transmission of COVID-19.

'Safety is our primary concern'

Fears over COVID-19 have caused cancellations on P.E.I. and around the world. (Yara Nardi/Reuters)

The two out-of-country school-sanctioned trips abroad for the month of March have been cancelled because of concerns over COVID-19, P.E.I. school officials announced Tuesday.

The cancellations include a school trip to Europe for the March break period. There are currently no international trips planned for the French Language School Board.

Brad Trivers, minister of education and lifelong learning, said he knows students will be disappointed, and hopes the trips can be rescheduled at a later date.

"Safety is our primary concern," he said in an interview on CBC News: Compass.

Trivers said Island families and students planning personal trips over March break are encouraged to visit the province's website for up-to-date important information about COVID-19, including updates and instructions for those travelling. 

Stay home if feeling symptoms

He said Island students and school staff returning from trips abroad who are feeling well can return to school. Those who may not be feeling well and are experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing are asked to stay home and contact 811 for instructions. 

There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Atlantic provinces.

Zoe Pineau, a Stratford mother of four, says she may keep her kids home from school after March break for 14 days as a precautionary measure out of fears over the coronavirus. (Travis Kingdon/CBC)

On Monday, New Brunswick's Department of Education said 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.​

Trivers said P.E.I. will continue to take its cue from the Chief Public Health Office when it comes to monitoring COVID-19 and any protocol to shut down schools should anyone get the virus.

Zoe Pineau, a Stratford mother of four, said she thinks the P.E.I. government should be following New Brunswick's lead. 

Pineau said she may not send her kids back to school after March break for 14 days as a precautionary measure.

"I think people are very concerned about over-panicking and it's almost causing people to not do anything," said Pineau. 

"I don't think people should panic and freak out. If it's going to spread here, it's going to spread through travel. So in order to slow it down, number one cutting down on unnecessary travel would be a good idea and number two, if you are sick or if you have travelled, then you should stay home for a little while afterwards."


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More from CBC P.E.I. 

With files by Wayne Thibodeau