To help halt the spread of the Coronavirus in China, which has left 3,000 sick and 80 dead, Chinese authorities on Friday greatly expanded a travel lockdown in central China to include 12 cities near the center of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei province - in effect quarantining about 35 million people. Authorities have canceled major events in Beijing during the Lunar New Year holiday period.
As much remains unknown about the virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday the viral illness in China is not yet a global health emergency. WHO defines a global emergency as an "extraordinary event" that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response. WHO said it will not ask airlines and airports to go beyond their current screening efforts.
However, airline and airport officials in the U.S. are examining passengers arriving on international flights that may be exhibiting certain symptoms. Other major global hubs, like Hong Kong and London’s Heathrow, have now also begun to monitor people disembarking flights from the center of the outbreak. Additional information related to the virus and its impact to travel can be found at the Center for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov.
Impact on Mobility Programs and Assignees
As a company’s Duty of Care obligation is to protect employees wherever in the world they are employed, NEI encourages companies take a proactive, advice-based approach. This may range from information sharing to formal briefings on the current virus situation and carefully examining employee / family international travel plans.
“We encourage companies to consider all options to work with assignees who may need assistance and determine how to advise employees traveling or on assignment in China," says Michelle Moore, NEI Chief Global Mobility Officer. “Employees should be aware of Coronavirus symptoms and confirm where local medical resources / hospitals are should they need treatment. Individuals should be encouraged to seek medical attention if they develop respiratory symptoms within 14 days of visiting Wuhan and are either still in or returning from visiting China.”
NEI will continue to monitor the situation as it progresses and will share information updates as they become available. If you would like to discuss a plan of support for your traveling or on assignment employees, please do not hesitate to reach out to your NEI representative or Mollie Ivancic, NEI’s VP, International Services.