Sask. school divisions cancel international trips, boost cleaning efforts due to COVID-19

Some school divisions in Sask. have gone as far as cancelling international trips and student exchange programs as a result of COVID-19.

Chief medical health officer says no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Sask.

Some Saskatchewan schools are cancelling trips abroad or international student exchange programs in response to COVID-19 outbreaks. (François Gagnon/Radio-Canada)

School boards across Saskatchewan have contingency plans in place and are taking measures to prevent staff or student exposure to COVID-19.

In Regina, public school division spokesperson Terry Lazarou said all international trips have been cancelled, including one that was supposed to go to Florida.

Lazarou said the school division has amassed cleaning supplies to disinfect schools if needed and that surfaces like doorknobs, desktops and washrooms are undergoing extra cleanings.

He said that even though the school division is in the midst of a campaign promoting attendance, any student who isn't feeling well or may be coming down with any illness should exercise caution and stay at home.

Lazarou said the division takes direction from both the health authority and the Ministry of Education when it comes to health and wellness issues. He said if any new direction comes from those bodies, the school division would act appropriately. 

Twylla West, spokesperson for the Regina Catholic School Board, agreed that parents should keep sick students at home. 

West said the division does not have any school sanctioned trips abroad planned, but noted some students may participate in trips through tour groups that aren't a part of the division's curriculum. 

Both the Regina public and Catholic school divisions are encouraging students to practise proper hygiene techniques, like washing their hands and avoiding touching their faces.

In Saskatoon, both the public and Catholic divisions have cancelled Japanese exchange student programs for this year as a result of COVID-19. 

A statement from the public school division said about 20 students were affected by that decision. 

The statement said the division is monitoring the outbreak situation before deciding on the fate of three trips planned to Europe this spring.

The Greater Saskatoon Catholic School division said it was still deciding what to do about trips planned to Europe this spring. A decision is expected to come sometime next week. 

No cases confirmed in Sask: Chief medical health officer

At a Thursday afternoon news conference, chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan. 

"We've had 52 tests, 45 negative, seven pending," Shahab said. "Most are people who have travelled from the high risk countries."

Shahab said the province is expanding the testing guidelines to people who've travelled anywhere in the world and he asked people to be aware of their symptoms when they return.

"If you have a runny nose, take it easy for a day or two," he said. "If it goes away, you don't have to worry, unless you've come from China, Iran, Italy, South Korea, those countries." 

He encouraged people who've travelled in the last 14 days who may have a fever, cough or runny nose to contact the Healthline to discuss their symptoms.