The North Okanagan Community based EF trip to Italy-Greece for Spring Break has been postponed due to concerns around COVID-19.
According to group leader, retired Pleasant Valley Secondary School teacher Paul Britton, the same trip is being rescheduling for late August and early September.
“Due to the risk of harm to students and parents traveling to those areas, the group has decided to reschedule at a later time,” said Britton, adding the decision was made after consultation with the group travelers and EF.
“We have decided to take the necessary precautions of postponing the trip, after taking into account Health Canada’s travel advisories and the very real potential that parents and students could be quarantined either overseas or once they return to Canada after the trips.”
Currently, 35 parents and students from Salmon Arm, Enderby, Armstrong and Vernon will be affected by the cancellations.
“The students are very disappointed and this decision to reschedule was not an easy one but necessary as the situation around the world is very complex, is rapidly changing and impacting all of us,” said Britton.
In Italy as of Tuesday evening, there were 2,263 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 79 deaths and 160 people recovered. The country declared a state of emergency on Jan. 31.
Britton, who has helped organize many such excursions for students and parents over his career, said one of the most amazing things students get to experience in school is travel.
“The ability to travel internationally, to experience different languages, cultures and geography is a rich and rewarding experience,” he said. “As you can imagine, these trips require extensive planning and support to succeed and working with EF to reschedule this trip has lessened the burden and impact on the travelers.”
B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she’s had discussions with school districts across B.C. and Canada about the risks and potential for coronavirus.
“We’ve recommended that people postpone or cancel trips to areas that have been affected and to be very aware that this is changing rapidly,” said Henry. “We’re seeing that in the last couple of weeks, there’s been other countries that have been identified and I think schools are looking at that and trying to determine where is safe for children to go.”
“This is a very unfortunate development but necessary due to the global crisis we are now facing,” Britton added. “Hopefully by August we will have this epidemic under control and travelers will be able to enjoy this fabulous trip which culminates with a cruise of the Greek Islands.”