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Sir John cancels students' Europe trip amid virus fears

Chloe Malin, Dara Maduke, Cindy Ng of Sir John Franklin School attended the Yk 1 Education District regular board meeting with principal Dean MacInnis, May 14, 2019. The four were among a contingent of students who visited China over the March Break and for 13 days. During the trip they visited four Chinese cities and they reported to trustees that the did it safely while learning much about the Asian country's culture. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

Sir John Franklin High School's student trip to Europe has been canceled amid fears of the spread of coronavirus.

“The kids and parents were informed on Monday,” school principal Dean MacInnis told Yellowknifer.

“We had been discussing this for a few weeks. In the end we decided in this situation the best precaution is cancellation for now.”

Twenty students and three adults were scheduled to fly out on Saturday for a 10-day trip to Austria, Czech Republic and Croatia.

Each student had been fundraising about $5,000 each for more than a year, MacInnis said.

Despite the Sir John's trip cancellation, no one in the NWT has tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, and 24 tests have been conducted, said health chief Kami Kandola.

Chief public health officer, Kami Kandola, says risk of coronavirus is low in NWT. NNSL File Photo

A COVID-19 test involves the tip of a swab inserted into the nose, with the tip then put in a special solution and sent to a laboratory for testing.

COVID-19 continues to spread in Canada, with 79 confirmed cases in four provinces and one death, but the risk of acquiring it in the NWT is low, Kandola said in a news release.

The fatality in British Columbia is evidence of community transmission and unrelated to infection due to direct travel to an affected area.

Kandola pointed out that community transmission is possible in the NWT and that the situation can change quickly.

“We have developed an NWT COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Guide and checklist for the health system to guide the review of local, regional and territorial pandemic plans,” she said.

“GNWT officials have also reached out to communities, schools, daycare, day homes and the college, as well as Indigenous governments on actions being taken to prepare for COVID-19. The GNWT will continue to share new information with them to help in their preparedness efforts.

The major trends of the virus show that, of more than 70,000 people with coronavirus, 80 per cent reported having a mild illness, while 20 per cent required hospitalization and an even smaller amount of infected people became critically ill, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention Report. They tended to be adults over 60 years of ago or people with chronic diseases or weakened immune systems.

Infected people under age 20 tend to have mild symptoms and represented only 2 per cent of all known cases .

“The NWT Office of the Chief Public Health Officer is working closely with partners at all government levels to protect the health and safety of NWT residents. This now involves testing residents and visitors for COVID-19 if they show flu-like symptoms and have recently travelled outside the NWT within the past 14 days,” Kandola said.

“They will be requested to self-isolate until results are available. If a person should test positive for COVID-19, health officials will act quickly to identify and monitor the person’s contacts to prevent further spread.”

Kandola advised that NWT residents should continue being vigilant by frequently washing their hands or using hand sanitizers, staying home if ill, cleaning contaminated surfaces and contacting health care providers if there are concerns.

Adults over 60 years of age or those with chronic conditions or weakened immune systems should particularly avoid travel outside the NWT, receiving travelers from affected areas and close contact with people who have flu-like symptoms.

The chief public health officer's update comes as Air Canada announced that on Wednesday it will cancel all flights to Italy as that country grapples with a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths and a country-wide lock down.