Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne is urging Canadians planning international trips to keep a close eye on government travel advisories as the coronavirus outbreak spreads.

As the number of cases of the novel coronavirus climbs, along with the number of countries affected, nations around the world have been imposing strict travel restrictions in an attempt to contain its spread.

On his way into a cabinet meeting this morning in Ottawa, Champagne called the outbreak a “dynamic” situation and urged Canadians with travel plans to take precautions.

“Make sure you check before you go. That’s the best advice I can give,” he said.

“We’ve seen new places where the coronavirus has expanded — in South Korea, we saw in Italy today not only the north of Italy but Sicily and Tuscany. We’ve seen what’s happening in Iran.”

Global Affairs Canada (GAC) has heightened its travel advisory for South Korea, where nearly 1,000 cases have been reported. The department is now warning travellers to exercise a “high degree of caution” in travelling to the country due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

More than 280 cases have been reported in Italy. More than 80,000 cases have been reported globally.

GAC’s advisory for travel to Italy was updated Tuesday, warning travellers to “practise special precautions.”

“COVID-19 can spread from person to person, and in Italy cases have been confirmed in multiple regions in the north of the country. Sustained community spread of the virus is being reported. This means it is unknown how or where some people became infected, and the spread is ongoing,” the advisory reads.

The advisory says good medical care is widely available in Italy, but services could be limited in rural areas and doctors and nurses may not be able to communicate in English or French.

Medical treatment for life-threatening emergencies and emergency room treatment is free of charge in Italy, but hospitals charge up-front for any convalescence or follow-up care, the advisory reads.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam issued a statement today saying that the risk posed by the coronavirus in Canada remains low.

She also confirmed that the 195 people who were under quarantine at the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton after an evacuation flight China have been released.

The group arrived two weeks ago on the second government-chartered flight from Wuhan, China, and have shown no symptoms throughout the quarantine period.

“As a result, they pose no risk to others and can return to their usual activities,” Tam said in the statement.

“I would like to thank the repatriated Canadians and their families for their patience, cooperation and contribution to public health. They have been through a stressful experience and I urge everyone to treat them with respect and compassion.”

On Monday, Tam said Canadian officials are preparing to respond to a possible pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet declared the outbreak a pandemic.


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