Parent wants Dartmouth High’s trip to Europe cancelled amid COVID-19 outbreak

A father of a grade 11 student at Dartmouth High says he would like to see an upcoming March break trip to Europe cancelled, amid growing concerns of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Over the weekend Italian officials confirmed an outbreak of the virus in the northern region of the country, which includes Milan. On Tuesday both Austria and Croatia also confirmed their first case of the virus.

“Under the current conditions I just think it’s really socially irresponsible to be sending these kids there,” said parent John MacEachern.

The trip was scheduled to start in Milan, Italy, then make stops in Cinque Terre, Monaco, and southern France before ending in Madrid, Spain.

Tour company EF tours has confirmed to Global News that they are changing itineraries so that no trips are being sent “to the impacted regions in Northern Italy.”

But MacEachern says that’s not good enough, and says students shouldn’t be heading to Europe at all.

“It’s like saying okay we understand Sackville is under lock-down so now we’re going to vacation in Bedford,” said MacEachern.

“I can’t send my kid to an emerging pandemic with origins they don’t really know yet, it’s really irresponsible,” he said.

But with the trip just two weeks away, MacEachern says he is unable to get a refund if he cancels himself.

Speaking to Global News on the phone, Eartha Monard, the principal of Dartmouth High says it’s also not up to the school whether or not a trip is cancelled. She said the trip is organized with EF tours so they make the call, unless the Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) gets involved.

Over the phone, spokesperson for HRCE Doug Hadley said in the past they have only cancelled trips twice, in 2001 after 9/11 and in 2015 when there was a government warning in regards to terrorism in France.

On Tuesday, the Government of Canada posted a travel health notice to their website about the COVID-19 virus in northern Italy. It advises against spending time in large crowds, and to avoid contact with sick people, but the risk level for Italy has not been changed from “take normal security precautions.”

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