Dutch health authorities on Thursday said they were scrambling to put together a plan for the imminent return of a group of around 900 students from a skiing trip in the north of Italy.
The trip by the youngsters, mostly in their early 20s, to the region at the heart of Europe's worst coronavirus outbreak has stoked fears of a wider spread of the virus in the Netherlands, where the number of confirmed corona cases on Thursday stood at 38.
"We are working very hard to prepare for all different scenarios", local health authorities spokeswoman Hanneke Mensink told Reuters.
These scenarios might include plans to monitor or test all students involved after their return. Mensink said it was too early to say how local healthcare teams would deal specifically with the risk of so many returning from the region at once.
The students, all members of the same Vindicat fraternity in the northern Dutch city of Groningen, are expected to return home on Sunday, after having spent a week in Sestriere in the Italian Alps, some 100 kilometers west of Turin.
During their stay, the Dutch government on Tuesday changed its travel advice for the region, saying any trip to northern Italy should be canceled unless it was absolutely necessary to go.
The local health authorities in Groningen, however, had already warned against the trip before the group left on Saturday, Mensink said.
"We told them our worries, but they decided to go anyway. That is their responsibility."
Vindicat could not be reached for comment.
Mensink said her organization was in daily contact with the group and that so far none of the travelers had reported any sign of contagion with the coronavirus.
The National Health Institute on Tuesday advised members of the group to closely monitor their health in the coming weeks and to distance themselves from others if they develop any possible symptoms of contagion with the coronavirus.