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Coronavirus: Surrey, B.C. rugby team struggles to get home from U.K. amid travel ban


A Surrey, B.C., rugby team is cutting its planned European tour short and struggling to fly back home from the U.K. before new travel restrictions due to coronavirus come into effect.

Players and staff from Earl Marriott Secondary’s senior boys rugby team left Vancouver for London on Wednesday morning, with a layover in Dallas. Plans were in place for a two-week itinerary that included games in France, Germany and other countries.

By the time the team got to Dallas, everything had changed: the World Health Organization had declared the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic, and U.S. President Donald Trump announced heavy restrictions on travel from mainland Europe.

Head coach Adam Roberts said that announcement also put the team’s plans to fly back from Europe to Seattle at the end of the tour into doubt.


With the U.K. originally exempt from Trump’s travel restrictions, Roberts quickly got to work drawing up a new itinerary that would keep the team in that country alone. He was able to rely on contacts within the British rugby community he has maintained for decades.

But after arriving across the pond, Roberts said it was clear the situation had gone from bad to worse.

“People were in full panic mode with countries shutting down all around us,” he said.

“We were originally going to stay until next Friday, but then games started getting cancelled … so we made the executive decision to just pull out and go home as soon as possible because we could see the writing on the wall.”

Roberts said he spent most of the one game the team did manage to play, against Vyners School near London, on the phone arranging new flights and talking to both parents and the Surrey School District back home.

He managed to get the team on planes from the U.K. to Seattle, which will leave just hours before a new ban on travel from that country to the U.S. comes into effect late Monday night.

“I think we’re beating the ban by about eight hours,” he said.

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