After much deliberation the management of the CBS in Wexford have opted to cancel a trip for some 30 students to China following the outbreak of the potentially lethal coronavirus which has gripped the country and claimed the lives of at least 360 people.
The Wexford school has developed great links to China in recent years and has seen transition year students travel to Beijing each year since 2010, giving them the once in a lifetime opportunity to see famous attractions such as The Great Wall, the Summer Palace and Tiananmen Square.
While this year's crop of transition years were expected to fly out on March 11, the school has now made the difficult decision to cancel the trip to prevent any risk of students or staff contracting the deadly virus.
'We were keeping an eye on the news and advice being issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs,' said Principal Michael McMahon. 'It got to a stage where we were going to have to make a call before we lost a considerable amount of money on it. Any later and there would have been significant costs and on the balance of things, the health and safety aspect of things was most important and there was no way we were going to put staff and students at any risk.'
With some airlines now opting to ground flights to China as a result of the virus, it was looking increasingly likely that making the journey there would prove difficult. As well as this, the Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday issued a warning to avoid all non-essential travel to China as a result of the rapid spread of coronavirus.
Mr McMahon is hopeful that the cost of cancelling the trip won't be excessive.
'We are hopeful,' he said. 'As things stand, there will be a cost. We'll have to cancel the flights which were with British Airways. What they will do in terms of the cancellations is not entirely clear at this stage.'
Mr McMahon stated that the school had been in contact with the Confucius Institute in the past week and the idea of postponing the trip had been raised. However, as a result of the amount of planning involved, postponing was not an option and the trip had to be cancelled. Mr McMahon said that teacher Ms Argue has been doing quite a lot of work behind the scenes to resolve the situation and efforts are being made to accommodate some of the students who would have been travelling to China on a different transition year trip to Italy, however, availability will be extremely limited.
'Obviously, it's very disappointing for the lads,' Mr McMahon said.
'We would hope to go again next year, but the current crop will have moved on to fifth year by then. This trip is one of the real highlights of transition year, but unfortunately our hands were tied and we had to err on the side of caution.'