TDSB cancels Europe trips due to coronavirus outbreak

Tourists wearing respiratory masks visit the Coliseum in Rome.

The Toronto District School Board has cancelled all its upcoming trips to Europe “until further notice” amid the spread of the coronavirus.

In a letter sent to parents and students Friday, TDSB said the decision was made after discussing the impact of the virus and the board’s ability to keep everyone safe while they are on the trips.

“We recognize that this will be very disappointing for many families, but please know this decision was not made lightly and the safety of our students and staff was top of mind while making it,” wrote the board’s associate director of business operations and service excellence, Carlene Jackson, in the letter.

The letter notes that the Canadian government has been advising people to avoid non-essential travels to Italy, where some schools and universities have already been closed over the coronavirus concerns.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has said the risk of the virus in European Union countries and the U.K. is moderate to high.

“The situation is evolving and there is simply too much uncertainty about what will happen in the next week or two, leading up to and even during, the trips,” wrote Jackson, who referred questions about refunds to trip operators.

“We had held out hope that this would not be the case, however with the travel dates approaching quickly, it was clear that we had to make a decision now.”

TDSB had a total of 15 trips planned to various parts of Europe in the coming weeks and months, according to spokesperson Ryan Bird.

Earlier this week, the Toronto Catholic District School Board announced it would be cancelling all March Break trips to Europe, after concluding travel to those countries was not safe.

As of Friday, there were more than 4,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Italy, one of the countries hard hit by the epidemic. The death toll had reached 197, according to officials.

In the United States, the number of cases detected had passed 250 by Friday evening, and 15 people had died, according to The New York Times. President Donald Trump signed a $8.3-billion emergency aid bill to address the outbreak.

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