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Stopping coronavirus: Precautions for business travellers

Tuesday, February 11, 2020 @ 8:43 AM | By Carrie Wright and Jacqueline Bart

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Carrie Wright
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Jacqueline Bart
For the past month, the world has been on alert after the identification of a novel coronavirus. Governments around the world have been taking action to stop the spread of the disease across international borders. However, the primary responsibility to ensure the containment of the virus falls to individual travellers themselves. There are a number of steps that should be taken by business travellers during this state of emergency to ensure that each is doing their part to protect the public health.

1. Limit travel to China, Hubei province specifically

Business travellers who are destined for China, and Hubei province specifically, and their employers must consider whether their travel is essential at this time, or whether the same business can be accomplished through other means or postponed until the crisis has passed.

Canada has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for China, recommending that Canadian travellers avoid non-essential travel to China and to avoid all travel to Hubei province specifically. These advisory levels are issued when the safety and security of Canadians travelling or living in the country may be compromised.

Practically speaking, it may also be difficult to obtain a flight to China from Canada. Apart from any government recommendations or restrictions, many airlines have cancelled flights into and out of China, in some cases until the end of February.

2. Take proper precautions

Those who must travel to China are advised to take specific precautions, including: avoiding high-risk areas, such as farms and animal markets; avoiding contact with animals and their droppings; avoiding eating raw or undercooked animal products; avoiding spending time in crowds; avoiding contact with sick people; maintaining awareness of the situation and following local public health advice; frequently handwashing with soap and water; and maintaining good respiratory etiquette, such as covering the mouth and nose with arm/sleeve when coughing or sneezing, disposing of any used tissues as soon as possible, and following with handwashing or sanitizing.

3. Sufficient travel insurance

Employers should also ensure that employees that are travelling to China have sufficient travel insurance. This will ensure that business travellers can obtain assistance in the event that they become ill while travelling. This will also provide business travellers with peace of mind, ensuring that they do not avoid seeking medical attention due to potential costs.

4. Fully disclose travel history at border

It is essential that truthful information be provided by travellers at a Canadian port of entry regarding their travel history. Travellers should ensure that they disclose if they have recently been in China, particularly Hubei province, even if they do not show symptoms of the virus.

In addition, travellers who feel ill during a flight to Canada or upon arrival are obligated to inform the flight attendant or CBSA officer to ensure that they receive proper screening and medical attention.

5. Monitor for symptoms after arrival in Canada

Employers should be alert for possible symptoms in travellers who have returned or are visiting from China but were not ill before or at the time of their entry. They should provide sick time to any high-risk employees who begin to show symptoms. They should also encourage these employees to seek medical attention immediately, advising their health care providers of their symptoms, travel history and any high-risk exposure history.

The government of Canada has indicated that the overall risk to Canadians from the coronavirus is low. However, to ensure that this remains the case, vigilance is required. Individuals must travel to China only if necessary, and those who do must take every precaution to avoid infection. They must also follow the necessary procedures upon arrival in Canada, whether they are symptomatic or not, so that CBSA officers can effectively carry out their duties. Only through co-operation and transparency can we ensure that the coronavirus does not become a worldwide health crisis.

Carrie Wright and Jacqueline Bart are partners at BARTLAW LLP, Canadian Immigration, Barristers and Solicitors. They can be reached at or 416-601-1346.

Photo credit / Gilnature ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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