Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Country Response

As the novel coronavirus pandemic rapidly escalates, countries around the world are quickly changing guidance and requirements, which will have varying impacts on employees, depending on their location.

*As of March 24, 2020

As the coronavirus continues to spread, guidance from health experts, countries and companies is changing. As a result, the approach countries are taking can vary substantially. Here is a snapshot of actions taken by countries where our members have a sizable employee footprint. *Note: This is a fluid and rapidly changing situation; validate the current requirements in any country in real time before making any decisions.

Americas

 

Argentina

  • Argentina announced that it would close its borders to all incoming foreigners for at least 2 weeks. The ban does not apply to legal permanent residents. The decision to ban most foreigners came days after Argentina announced it would halt all flights from the United States and Europe.1
  • Argentina has enacted a battery of measures, listed below, designed to slow down the spread of the virus and buy time:
    • Anyone who is required to be under quarantine must follow it or face criminal prosecution. The national Ministry of Security released a telephone number that people can call to report someone they suspect of flouting the rules. The government has also sent a text message to the more than 180,000 Argentines and residents who have returned to the country since the start of March, reminding them of the mandatory quarantine. "Not complying is a CRIME," it said.2

    • Municipal officials have lists of people who have recently returned from abroad, and health workers are doing daily checks to make sure travelers are at home. The same is happening with tourists who arrived during the pandemic and must now stay in their hotel rooms.2

Brazil

  • Brazil declared a state of emergency, which frees up funds for the federal government to fight the coronavirus.3
  • The country’s two biggest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and their surrounding states have moved to slow the outbreak by restricting social gatherings in a push to empty shopping malls, beaches and public transportation.3
  • President Bolsonaro has banned entry for citizens from China and the European Union.3
  • Brazil announced enhanced screening and quarantine measures on the borders. It will partially close its border with Venezuela, but trucks with merchandise can continue crossing.4

Canada

  • Canada closed the U.S. border to all non-essential travel. The border also closed to most non-citizens, and international flights are being rerouted to four airports where enhanced screenings are taking place. Passengers returning to Canada are being instructed to enter into a 14-day self-isolation period to lessen the spread of the global pandemic.5
    • The Canadian government is also providing $27 billion in direct assistance to workers and families that includes:5
      • A temporary boost to the Canada Child Benefit payment by nearly $2 billion;
      • Introduction of an emergency care benefit of up to $900 biweekly for 15 weeks for those who must stay home and don't have paid sick leave. Eligible people include those who can't access Employment Insurance (EI) benefits and are sick, or those taking care of a child or someone who is sick.
      • A $5 billion emergency support benefit through the Canada Revenue Agency to support workers who are facing unemployment, as well as an additional amount for low-income people through the Goods and Services tax credit.
      • Waiving the 1-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits for 6 months and waiving the requirement for a doctor's note to access this assistance.
      • Extending the tax filing deadline for individuals to June 1 and allowing taxpayers to defer payment until after August 31.
      • Providing eligible small businesses with a 10% wage subsidy for the next 90 days, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.
      • Allowing lenders to defer mortgage payments.
      • Other targeted support for vulnerable groups, including seniors and the homeless population; implementing a 6-month interest-free moratorium on student loan payments; and supporting Indigenous people and women and children fleeing domestic violence.

Chile

  • Chile closed its borders to all foreigners for an undetermined period. Chileans returning home from areas with a significant number of cases of the coronavirus must quarantine for 14 days.1
  • Chilean President Sebastian Pinera declared a 90-day state of catastrophe as cases of the new coronavirus mounted, giving the government powers to restrict freedom of movement and ensure that the food supply and basic services remain operational. The order would also ensure more security for hospitals, protect supply chains for medicines and allow the government to enforce quarantines and isolation measures.6

Mexico

  • Mexico has not imposed any travel restrictions.1
  • Mexico’s government has been reluctant to implement strong measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said he wouldn’t close airports, shut down businesses or take other steps that might damage the economy.7

Asia Pacific

 

Australia

Australia’s borders will close to all visitors, except for citizens and permanent residents and their close family members.4 Australian citizens and residents are still able to enter the country from abroad but must quarantine themselves for 14 days upon returning.4

India

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a "complete" lockdown for India's 1.3 billion people, lasting for a minimum of 21 days. The lockdown applies to all of India's 36 states and territories.8
    Only essential services will be operational during this time. They include water, electricity, health services, fire services, groceries and municipal services. All shops, commercial establishments, factories, workshops, offices, markets and places of worship will be closed, and interstate buses and metros will be suspended. Construction activity will also be on hold.8
  • The Indian government suspended most travel and tourism visas, with the exception of “diplomatic, official, U.N. or international organizations and employment and project visas” until April 15. Additionally, the country is enforcing a 2-week quarantine on all passengers, including Indian nationals, “arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany” after Feb. 15.1
  • Travel of passengers from Afghanistan, Philippines and Malaysia to India is prohibited.9
  • No scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft shall take off from any foreign airport to any airport in India.10
  • No incoming scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft shall be allowed to disembark its passengers *on Indian soil* (foreign or Indian).10
  • The government proposed a number of interventions to restrict the spread of COVID-19 that go into effect until March 31st, including:11
    • Closure of all educational establishments (schools, universities, etc.), gyms, museums,cultural and social centers, swimming pools and theatres. Students should be advised to stay at home. Online education will be promoted.
    • Possibility of postponing exams may be explored. Ongoing exams to be conducted only after ensuring physical distance of 1 meter among students.
    • Encouraging private sector organizations/employers to allow employees to work from home wherever feasible. Meetings should be done through video conferences, as much as possible, and those involving large numbers of people should be minimized or rescheduled unless absolutely necessary.
    • Ensuring that restaurants enforce handwashing protocols and proper cleanliness of frequently touched surfaces. Ensure physical distancing (minimum 1 meter between tables) and encourage open-air seating where practical with adequate distancing.
    • Keeping already planned weddings to a limited gathering, postponing all non-essential social and cultural gatherings.
    • Calling on local authorities to have a dialogue with organizers of sporting events and competitions involving large gatherings, possibly advising them to postpone such events.
    • Calling on local authorities to have a dialogue with opinion and religious leaders to regulate mass gatherings and ensure that no overcrowding occurs (at least 1 meter distance between people).
  • Calling on local authorities to have meetings with traders’ associations and other stakeholders to regulate hours, exhibit Do’s and Don’ts and post key messages at places where essential services are provided, such as drive-in marketplaces, bus depots, railway stations and post offices.
  • Conducting all commercial activities at a distance of 1 meter between customers and enacting measures to reduce peak hour crowding in markets.
  • Avoiding non-essential travel, with buses, trains and airplanes maximizing social distancing during public transport and ensuring regular and proper disinfection of surfaces.
  • Having hospitals follow necessary protocol related to COVID-19 management as prescribed and restricting family/friends/children visiting patients in hospitals.
  • Maintaining hygiene and physical distancing and avoiding shaking hands and hugging as a matter of greeting.
  • Following special protective measures for delivery men/ women working in online ordering services.
  • Keeping communities informed consistently and constantly.
  • Singapore

    • All Singaporeans, permanent residents, long-term passholders and short-term visitors entering Singapore will be issued a 14-day stay-home notice (SHN) and will have to provide proof of the place where they served their 14-day SHN. For example, they can provide a hotel booking covering the entire period, or a place of residence they or their family members own.12
    • Those in-country have been asked to defer all overseas travel.12 
    • The government has recommended social distancing, especially among seniors and vulnerable populations in the community, to further reduce risk of local transmission.13

    Malaysia

    • Travel to and from Malaysia is prohibited until March 31, while all non-essential businesses and services will be shuttered. The country enacted a Movement Control Order that prohibits Malaysians from leaving the country. Residents who return from overseas must undergo health checks and be subjected to a 14-day self-quarantine.14
    • Public gatherings and movements across Malaysia are banned. These include religious and sporting events, as well as social and cultural activities, while all schools and higher-learning institutions are closed.14
    • All businesses and firms are expected to cease operations, except for those involved in essential services, such as water, electricity, telecommunications, transport, oil, petrol, safety and defense.14
    • All places of worship and business are closed, except for supermarkets, grocery stores and convenience stores selling everyday necessities.14

    Europe

     

    United Kingdom

    • Schools across the U.K. are closed to students, unless their parents are key workers providing
      health and social care; education and childcare; key public services; utilities, communication and financial services; local and national government; food and other necessary goods; public safety and national security; and transportation and have no other childcare.15,16
    • Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared a national emergency and urged people to stay at home to protect the National Health Service and save lives.17
    • The following restrictions have been put in place and will be kept under constant review. People should only leave home to: 17
      • Shop for basic necessities such as food and medicine. Trips should be as infrequent as possible.17
      • Exercise, such as running, walking, or cycling. This should be done alone or with people in your household.17
      • Seek medical attention, provide care or help a vulnerable person. This includes moving children under the age of 18 between their parents' homes, where applicable. Key workers or those with children identified as vulnerable can continue to take their children to school.17
      • Travel to and from work, but only when work cannot be done from home.17
    • People should minimize the amount of time spent out of their homes and should keep 2 meters (6ft) away from those not in their household.17
    • All social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies are prohibited. Funerals will be allowed.16
    • Businesses that will remain open include: 17
      • Restaurants, cafes and work canteens - but only for food delivery and takeaway services
      • Supermarkets and other premises selling food, including market stalls
      • "Health shops" such as pharmacies
      • Gas stations, garages and car rental businesses
      • Bicycle shops
      • Home and hardware shops
      • Laundry mats and dry cleaners
      • Pet shops
      • Corner shops, newsagents and post offices
      • Banks
    • Libraries, non-essential shops, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship have been ordered to close.17
    • Parks will remain open for exercise, but people are not allowed to gather in groups.17
    • Community centers can remain open but only for the purpose of "hosting essential voluntary or public services" such as food banks or service for homeless people.17
    • Hotels, hostels, campsites and caravan parks must also close unless key workers need to stay there, or if other people staying there cannot return to their primary residence.17
    • Police will have the power to enforce these rules through fines and dispersing gatherings, if they aren’t followed.17

    Africa

     

    Nigeria

    The government has restricted entry into the country for travelers from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, the U.S., Norway, the U.K., Switzerland and the Netherlands. Those coming from high-risk countries are asked to self-isolate for 14 days.4

    South Africa

    • South Africa declared COVID-19 a national disaster and closed half of its borders.18 
    • Large gatherings are prohibited. The population has been advised to minimize contact with others and do the "elbow greeting" rather than shake hands.19
    • Schools, nurseries and universities have been ordered to remain shut.19
    • Travel restrictions imposed on mainland European countries, South Korea, the U.S., and the U.K.20 

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