Chinese student visit to Richmond school cancelled due to coronavirus

A two-week long visit from Chinese elementary students to a Richmond school has been cancelled, due to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

The 25-strong party was due to arrive in Richmond from the city of Shenzhen, just north of Hong Kong, on Thursday.

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However, the group – which was set for a 15-day international student program at Westwind elementary in Steveston – cancelled its trip over the weekend.

A message from the school district’s Richmond International Education department to Westwind’s parents said the decision was made by Shenzhen Education Bureau (the equivalent of the school district).

“(The bureau) decided to rescind permission for all student groups to travel abroad or within China for the time being.

“Therefore, unfortunately the students and teachers from Fuyong and Longgang schools have to cancel their winter programme with us.

“…It is unfortunate that the (program) had to be cancelled, but perhaps it was a wise and inevitable decision in the end.”

The news came as a relief to some Westwind parents, who had grown anxious about the visit, given the spread of the deadly Chinese coronavirus across that country.

One of the parents, who asked not to be named, said many within the school community at Westwind were “concerned about the children and families coming over from China.

“Concerns are based on the region in China having confirmed cases, the incubation period, and even with best intentions, how the school district can take preventative measures.”

Asked if the Richmond School District was considering cancelling the student visit before their Chinese counterparts, a spokesperson said it was taking its lead from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH).

“The district has been advised by VCH that the risk to the general public, including school-age children, is very low,” said district spokesperson David Sadler.

“Medical health officers continue to monitor the situation closely, and will provide further advice and information as it becomes available.

“The decision to cancel the trip was ultimately made by the Shenzhen Education Bureau. This is the only program to date that has been cancelled.”

On Monday, China was reporting 2,744 cases and 80 deaths, but it remains to be seen whether the virus is as dangerous as the common flu, which kills thousands every year in Canada alone.

Ontario reported Monday that it now has two "presumptive positive" cases of the Wuhan coronavirus, a husband and his wife, who both travelled from that region of China.

The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) told the Richmond News on Thursday that there are no confirmed cases of the Chinese novel coronavirus in the province.

Asked by the News if there were any cases being investigated for the potentially deadly disease, a spokesperson for the BCCDC said they can only “provide information on confirmed cases.”

British Columbians risk of coronavirus remains low, according to the BCCDC.

Canadian doctors are urging concerned citizens to take the same sorts of precautions they would to avoid common illnesses, such as frequent hand-washing and coughing into the arm or sleeve rather than the hand.

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