The fears over the spread of coronavirus has led to one Richmond family keeping their daughter off school, even though they haven’t been to China recently.
Ashley and Ed Wong are concerned that two children, who recently returned from China, went back to their daughter’s elementary school in central Richmond, long before the B.C. government’s suggested 14-day isolation period.
In fact, the Wongs are so worried about their eight-year-old child – who they didn’t want to name – that they’ve taken her out of school for the last two weeks.
And, with many people still returning from Lunar New Year vacations in China, the couple isn’t sure when they will send their daughter back to the school.
“I was planning to (send her back this week), but we’re not sure now,” Ashley told the Richmond News, adding she’s concerned about more people returning from China and sending their kids straight back to school.
“We know (through the PAC’s WeChat group) of at least two kids who came back from China and went to school after only a few days.
“Some of my friends are sending their kids to school because they have no choice, they have to work. They are very worried, though. I’m lucky, because I’m in between jobs.”
Ashley echoed the sentiments of many parents in Richmond that the school district should be telling parents to keep their kids at home for 14 days if they’ve recently returned from China.
However, the school district has been at pains to stress that it has absolutely no power to do so and is taking its health advice from the likes of Vancouver Coastal Health and the B.C. Ministry of Health.
The district said, in a statement to parents, that it "will continue to monitor student attendance as well as new registrations.
"If a school administrator has reason to believe that a student or their family may have recently travelled to Hubei province in China, direct contact will be made with the family for further discussion.
"The family will be encouraged to remain at home for the 14-day quarantine period.
"If, for some reason, this protocol is not followed, the district will work with local health authorities to ensure the safety of all students and staff."
Ashley said she knows of a few other families who "just came back from China and are isolating themselves (and their kids) at home.”
Asked if she and her husband are concerned about how much school their daughter is missing, Ashley said it’s a factor, but her family’s health is more important.
“They’re starting to learn stuff at school now and she’s missing playing with her friends,” she added.
When she called the school last week to talk about her daughter’s absenteeism, she claimed the receptionist said around half the school’s enrolment was “off sick” due to similar concerns.
However, a spokesperson for the district said that figure was not true, indicating the number of students not attending was only about 18 per cent, which is normal for this time of year.
The district responded more than a week ago to parental concerns that it wasn’t doing enough to stop people from sending their kids to school if they’d recently visited China, where the coronavirus outbreak started late last year.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of Monday morning, there were 40 554 confirmed cases globally (3,085 new).
In China, there has been 40,235 confirmed cases (3,073 new) and 909 deaths (97 new).
Outside of China, there are 319 confirmed cases (12 new) across 24 countries and one death.
Seven cases have been confirmed in Canada, four of those in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, which includes Richmond.