A group of Cork students from Kinsale College have had their trip to Italy cancelled after the company who were to host the students shut on account of a coronavirus outbreak.
The group of 24 students were due to stay and take part in work placements funded by the Erasmus+ programme in Rimini in the Emilia Romagna region, one of the most heavily affected of the northern regions in Italy which remains under lockdown.
Most schools and other facilities that were to have been accessed by the Cork students will remain closed in the Emilia Romagna region until at least Mach 1.
The students were due to fly into Bologna Airport on Sunday, March 1 and stay in Rimini for two weeks and were due to fly home on March 15.
They attended an Italian lesson at Kinsale College in preparation for the trip on Monday last when they were told by staff that the trip had been cancelled by the Italian host company ETS Volontarimini.
23-year-old childcare student from Crosshaven, Molly Murray, spoke of the students’ disappointment following the cancellation of the trip.
“It was awful timing because everyone was ready to go. We’ve known since before Christmas so there was a build up to it and excitement but it is better to be safe than sorry.
“It was going to be a huge opportunity, especially for the career that I’m heading into but they made the right call I think, seeing how the coronavirus outbreak has progressed. I’ve been reading up on it in the news and it seems to be getting a lot worse,” she said.
There were a total of three groups of 60 students due to take part in Kinsale College’s Erasmus programme which saw one group travel to Poland, another travel to Malaga and the third group which was due to travel to Italy.
The trip was fully funded by Erasmus+ programme and students have not lost out on any money over the cancellation.
“It was all fully funded, accommodation and flights, and they were giving us €550 spending money and €50 when we got back if we did a write-up piece on our experience,” Ms Murray said.
The students were informed that rescheduling of the trip was not an option because there was no two weeks in the remainder of the academic year that would suit everyone due to upcoming assignments and examinations.
“We asked if it could be rescheduled but because we finish in May there was no other two weeks that they would have been able to fit it in, especially with people’s exams and different assignments coming up and everything.
“It was kind of the only two weeks that suited everyone.
“People were asking if Ryanair did not cancel the flight, could we be rescheduled to go somewhere else in those two weeks, but the flights were booked and they wouldn't have been able to reschedule them because they would have had to pay again for another round of flights. It just wasn't an option.
She said that college will go ahead as normal and she said students now “just have to put the head down”.
Ms Murray also runs Molly’s Mini Movers, fitness for kids classes, which run out of Carrigaline Court Hotel and Leisure Centre, the community centre in Kinsale and Ups A Daisy Montessori.
“I’ve been given enough notice to keep going with the Movers but I don’t think a lot of people were as lucky with work because they had it booked off and that was their plan for the two weeks."
Director of Kinsale College, Liz Moynihan, commented on the decision to cancel the trip, which was made when the host company in Italy went into “complete shutdown”.
“We cancelled the trip on Monday because the company that was hosting out there is in complete shutdown.
“They pulled the plug on it which, I suppose, made it easier for us to make the decision early on Monday morning when this was all unfolding.
She said that there are no plans to reschedule the trip because the situation in Italy is “changing by the hour.''
“We’re following the HSE and Department of Education’s guidelines at the moment. We just got an email from Cork ETB today advising us that all trips to the affected regions wouldn’t be going ahead.
“The trip is cancelled and classes will now continue as normal so it’s normal working days for us here.
“Obviously the students were disappointed but obviously they understood the reasons as well,” she said.
As of Wednesday mid-morning, there were 357 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 12 deaths recorded in Italy.
About 81,000 people around the globe have now been infected with Covid-19, and that number continues to increase as it spreads.