A group of 900 Dutch students returns from a ski trip to northern Italy
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – A group of 900 Dutch college students who went on a ski trip to northern Italy despite the worst outbreak of coronavirus in Europe returned home on Saturday by bus and faced an outcry on social media.
The Vindicat Brotherhood's trip did not violate Dutch health or travel guidelines, but they returned home a day earlier when the public was concerned and questions were asked by MPs.
The students arrived in a convoy of 14 buses in the northern city of Groningen and received instructions from local health workers, but were not quarantined.
Guidelines for students, mostly in their twenties, are to practice "social distancing" if you have cold symptoms, and quarantine yourself and contact your regular doctor if you develop flu symptoms.
Jos Rietveld of the Groningen Health Service said he was "satisfied" with the group's collaboration over the past week. "The students take our instructions very seriously," he said.
The Vindicat Group spent six days in Sestriere in the Italian Alps, 100 km west of Turin and further away from the cities east of Milan, which were hit hardest by the Italian outbreak.
During her stay, the Dutch government changed her travel advice for the region and said on Tuesday that trips to northern Italy should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
Concern over the group's trip is "understandable," Vindicat leader Floris Hamann told the national daily De Telegraaf. "The dynamics changed on Tuesday evening."
Hamann said the authorities had not ordered them to return, but they felt compelled by group members and their families.
"We left feeling good and satisfied with the information we received," he said.
The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Netherlands has risen steadily to 128 on Friday, with one death. Most, but not all, of the Dutch cases have been linked to the outbreak of northern Italy.
Italy has more than 4,600 cases with 197 deaths.
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