Doubt cast over school, university travel

OBHS rector Richard Hall. Photo: ODT files
OBHS rector Richard Hall. Photo: ODT files
Otago schools, the University of Otago and the Southern District Health Board are reassessing their overseas travel plans, following confirmation of a third case of Covid-19 in New Zealand.

All schools are considering cancelling or postponing overseas trips in a bid to mitigate the threat to pupils.

Otago Boys’ High School rector Richard Hall said the board of trustees and a school tour group would meet tonight to discuss whether a planned cricket trip to India at Easter should go ahead.

‘‘We’ll be looking at either postponement or cancellation of the trip.’’

He said it would be a difficult decision to make because a lot of money had been raised and a lot of preparation had gone into the trip.

‘‘Schools like ours put these trips on because they are fantastic learning opportunities

‘‘But we have to balance out the risk. It’s the risk of students getting ill and returning ill.

‘‘There’s also the potential that they may not be able to get back via somewhere like Singapore, and just the uncertainty and difficulty in trying to predict how this is shifting when it’s moving quite quickly.

‘‘What’s the situation going to look like in April when the trip is to take place?

‘‘At the end of the day, the welfare of the pupils has to come first.’’

The school’s meeting is not out of the ordinary.

Otago Secondary Principals’ Association president Linda Miller said all schools across the region were assessing whether to cancel or postpone overseas trips because of the uncertainty around Covid-19.

Overseas schools with plans to visit New Zealand were doing the same thing.

A group of Thai pupils recently postponed its visit to multiple schools across Otago in April, she said.

The Covid-19 outbreak has prompted the University of Auckland to cancel overseas work experience for its medical students and immediately recall 70 of them.

A University of Otago spokeswoman said Dunedin medical students had not yet been recalled, but the situation might change later this week.

‘‘The University of Otago is currently in the process of actively reviewing the situation with overseas electives for medical students.’’

She said the university had a similar number of medical students overseas as the University of Auckland at present.

In regards to staff travel, she said the university had been advised travel insurance might not cover Covid-19-related illness or events while staff were travelling.

‘‘Therefore, we have asked staff to reconsider any travel that is not essential.’’

She could not say how many trips had been affected as that was down to each department to manage.

Southern District Health Board executive director in charge of Covid-19 planning Gail Thomson said the board had not asked its staff to cancel any travel at this stage.

To ensure consistency across the country, it was seeking advice from the Ministry of Health on staff travelling without insurance for Covid-19.

‘‘Until such advice has been received, we would discourage it.

‘‘We are concerned about the personal safety of our staff, and aware of the critical importance of Southern DHB staff in looking after the health of people in Southern if Covid-19 comes to our community. The situation is evolving and we are seeking additional information regarding issues such as insurance, and reviewing the advice we provide to staff.”

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

Comments

Good to the the Universities taking this seriously at last.

Quite so. Soon we will understand this is like a World War, without bullets. We all have to change and adjust. Far less travel and hunker down, Pity all our politicians cannot see this. I am ashamed of Simon Bridges who is into points scoring instead of the greater good on NZ, Get real and work together.

So the DCC junkets to Shanghai on the pretence of economic development are endangered? Gosh that will pay for a Green Party Mole in the Mayor's office.

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