Canada issues travel health notice for seven countries amid COVID-19 outbreak

Travel plans for many Canadians are in limbo as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to increase in severity.

This week, Public Health Agency of Canada[1] updated its list of travel health notices for COVID-19 to include seven destinations: Iran, Hong Kong, China, Northern Italy, South Korea, Japan and Singapore.

Travel health notices are part of the government of Canada’s travel advisory for a specific country. With the spread of COVID-19 also being reported in over 30 countries, Canada will have to also start factoring in other governments’ ability to contain the spread of the virus as they issue travel advisories and health notices, one expert says.

“There were the flight cancellations to China, which were a necessary precaution,” said Lynette Ong, an associate professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy’s Asian Institute.

“If the same will happen for other countries, it’s hard to say, but it’s dependent on the extent of how well these countries can control the virus.”

Canadians travelling to the seven destinations below will want to check with their insurance companies’ policies. They might be uninsurable and have their future claims denied because advisories were in place at the time of their bookings.

With no way to predict when the outbreak will end, travellers are advised to look into cancellation policies for trips to these overseas locations.


On Feb.

25, Canada’s Public Health Agency issued a Level 2 travel advisory for Iran[2]. It advised those who travel there to “practise special precautions,” such as constantly monitoring their health and going into isolation once identifying symptoms of the virus.

The first case of COVID-19 in Iran was reported Feb.

19, but in just over a week, the country has reported over 25 deaths and 245 infections. 

Community spread is being reported in Iran, meaning that it’s being transmitted from person to person. Canada has already seen four cases[3] linked to people who visited Iran, without having been to China.

Reports suggest the virus might have spread to Iran’s neighbours, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Pakistan.

Travel to the region increases as Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, is celebrated on March 20. Canada advises travellers that “spending time in large crowds or crowded areas can increase your risk of getting sick.”

Hong Kong

If you’re travelling to Hong Kong, you can expect increased health screening measures at points of entry. Hong Kong has at least two reported deaths and over 90 cases, as of Feb.

27, which has led to the state’s Special Administration Region (HKSAR) to raise its response strategy to “emergency,” the highest level.

The government of Canada’s travel advisory page has warned to “exercise a high degree of caution” because of the coronavirus because “the safety and security situation could change with little notice.”

Public Health Agency of Canada is not recommending the cancellation or postponement of your travel plans to Hong Kong. Instead, on Feb.

24, they issued a Level 1 travel health notice to “practise usual precautions[4].”

Despite the lack of a high travel health notice, Air Canada has already cancelled all its Toronto-Hong Kong flights until April 30[5], because of a reduced demand to the area.

It might be a sign of things to come for other popular destinations if demand in Canada continues to fall.  

“If there’s a falling demand for seats, the supply will also follow suit,” Ong said. “If people are worried about booking their trips, there’s no point of flying a plane with empty seats.”


An “avoid non-essential travel” advisory is still in issue for China[6], because of the risk it could pose to “travellers and the Canadian public.”

It’s the second highest level of an advisory, and the same severity has been issued by Public Health for its travel health notice. The highest COVID-19 advisory, “avoid all travel,” has been issued specifically for Wuhan, in the Hubei province, which is the centre of the outbreak.

If you’re still trying to find a trip into China, it won’t be easy. Air Canada has cancelled flights into the mainland until April 10.[7]

The decision was made in consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Transport Canada and Global Affairs as China continues to try and control the virus.

Even though we’ve seen a drop in the amount of reported daily cases, COVID-19 has currently killed over 2,700 people and infected over 78,000, with China implementing lockdowns for many of its cities.

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According to the government of Canada’s travel advisory page[8], there have also been reports of hotels not accepting guests who have not been in China for at least 14 days, which is the incubation period, or requiring them to stay in self-isolation in their rooms for those first two weeks. You also face the risk of being quarantined at any moment, since temperature checks are conducted in hotels, stores and shopping centres.

Northern Italy

People visiting northern Italy have been advised to “exercise a high degree of caution” by the Canadian government, while Public Health Agency has released a Level 2 travel health notice[9] to “practise special precautions.”

Italy has had the largest spread of COVID-19 outside of Asia, after just reporting its first case Feb.

18. As of Feb.

27, the Mediterranean country has over 520 cases and at least 14 deaths, with the majority coming from the the regions of Lombardy and Veneto, which are home to Milan and Venice.

Because of the recent spread, we’ve seen quarantine measures in certain municipalities, school closures and the cancellation of large public gatherings like soccer matches.

South Korea

South Korea has seen its cases jump in recent weeks, as they’ve reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases outside of China, with over 1,700 infections and at least 13 deaths. 

Canadians who are flying to South Korea can expect increased health screening measures at points of entry.

The Public Health Agency issued a Level 2 travel health risk to “practise special precautions[10]” on Feb.

24. The government of Canada’s travel advisory page has also warned its citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution” as part of its general warning because safety precautions might change at a moment’s notice in the country.

On Feb.

23, the South Korean government raised its virus alert to red, its highest level. If you travel to South Korea, you may be asked to self-isolate because of your travel history, current health conditions, and who you’ve been in contact with.


If you’re travelling to Japan, you can expect increased health screening measures at points of entry. While the government of Canada has not released any general advisories, the Public Health Agency on Feb.

25 said to “practise usual precautions” as part of a Level 1 travel health notice[11]

Japan has so far reported at least three deaths among more than 180 cases. That doesn’t include the passengers who were on the Diamond Princess Cruise which was docked off the coast of Yokohama as it underwent a 14-day quarantine starting Feb.

4. There were more than 600 COVID-19 cases on board, includiung 47 Canadians[12], which has caused international concern over the safety of cruises during this global health emergency.

World-wide attention will continue to be set on Japan, with a looming decision on whether to still hold the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo amid the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the International Olympic Committee[13].


A Level 1 travel health notice[14] to “practice usual precautions” has been issued for Singapore. 

The South East Asian country has over 90 cases, but no reported deaths.

In January, Singapore aimed to limit the spread by closing its borders to all Chinese travellers because of the number of tourists that visit the country on a daily basis, Ong said.

Canadians who wish to visit Singapore also won’t be allowed entry if they’ve been to China within the past 14 days.


  1. ^ Public Health Agency of Canada (
  2. ^ Level 2 travel advisory for Iran (
  3. ^ Canada has already seen four cases (
  4. ^ practise usual precautions (
  5. ^ already cancelled all its Toronto-Hong Kong flights until April 30 (
  6. ^ still in issue for China (
  7. ^ has cancelled flights into the mainland until April 10. (
  8. ^ travel advisory page (
  9. ^ Level 2 travel health notice (
  10. ^ practise special precautions (
  11. ^ Level 1 travel health notice (
  12. ^ includiung 47 Canadians (
  13. ^ according to the International Olympic Committee (
  14. ^ A Level 1 travel health notice (

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