Chinese students set to study in N.S. asked not to leave China because of coronavirus

A group of 52 high school students from China will not be attending classes across Nova Scotia next week as originally planned because of the coronavirus outbreak. They were slated to fly in this week for the upcoming semester, but were asked by their government not to leave China.

The students are from Suzhou, a city about 800 kilometres east of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, a flu-like illness that can cause pneumonia and other severe respiratory symptoms.

"They are on hold and we're just waiting for updates as the situation unfolds," said Andrea Ashton, a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia International Students Program, the organization that oversees the exchange program.

Ashton said she doesn't know when the situation could change.

"We have to respect the decision that their government has taken and just wait for updates as they come," she said.

China News Service photo via Reuters

Nova Scotia's chief medical officer, Dr. Robert Strang, said he plans to meet with university officials across the province on Wednesday.

With the large number of Chinese-born students enrolled in universities in the province, Strang said it's important to get accurate information to the schools so they can handle it.

"There's already some fear and hysteria emerging," Strang said. "Like, 'These students shouldn't be in class, they should be isolated in their dormitory with masks.'"

A lot of that fear comes from the lack of information, Strang said, which is why the Department of Health is trying to learn more about the virus and how it spreads.

"We really got to counteract some of this discrimination and stigma," he said.

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