Coronavirus: Countries’ Containment Efforts Affect Employers

Governments around the world seeking to protect their talent from coronavirus have issued guidance and in some cases restrictions on employees traveling to and from China. The approach taken by the U.S. is similar to that taken by most countries, while Singapore’s approach is most restrictive.

 In an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus within their borders, several countries have provided guidance to, and in some instances, placed requirements on domestic employers related to employees traveling to China. In most countries, governments are recommending to businesses that they refrain from sending employees to China. The Singapore government has placed specific requirements and restrictions on businesses for employees entering the country from China.

Here is an overview of the notifications and guidance issued in the U.S., which is presently the most common approach by governments, and Singapore which has implemented the most stringent precautions for employers related to business travelers and workers from China. A number of countries have separately banned all foreign nationals who have been to the Hubei province, and in some cases anywhere in China, in the last 14 days from entering the country.

United States

The U.S. Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) has raised its travel warning for China to Level 3, which recommends that individuals avoid nonessential travel to the country. The CDC advises employers to encourage its employees who demonstrate symptoms of the coronavirus to notify their employer so they can be separated from other employees and sent home. Employers are also advised to post information in the workplace recommending they stay home when sick and to conduct regular environmental cleaning of the workplace.

The U.S. government implemented a policy to ban entry into the U.S. for non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents traveling from China. U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have traveled recently to the Hubei Province of China, in which the City of Wuhan is located, will be quarantined for 14 days upon their return to the U.S. Employees who have visited other parts of China recently will undergo a medical screening at one of 11 U.S. airports that have been designated to handle travelers from China.

To access the CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCOV), February 2020, please click here.

Singapore

The Singapore government has advised its citizens to avoid all travel for the time being to the Hubei province of China and non-essential travel to the entire country. The Singapore Ministry of Manpower has taken the additional step of requiring all employers to verify whether employees entering the country have recently traveled to China. Specifically, employers must submit a health and travel declaration for their employees stating whether they have been to China within 14 days of arriving into Singapore and, if so, when and whether their travel included the Hubei province.

Employees who have been to the Hubei province will be quarantined at home and compensated as they would for hospitalization leave. Individuals who have been to China (but not to the Hubei province) within the past 14 days will be required to take a leave of absence from their job. Employees taking leave may work from home but if not possible then will be compensated as sick leave. Singapore also will not approve any new work passes for individuals from China, although the government will renew current work passes for Chinese nationals in Singapore.

For more information on the Singapore policy on employees who have traveled recently to China, please click here.

Please Note: Countries are continuously evaluating their approaches to preventing the further spread of the coronavirus. Company representatives should check the website of the health ministry of each country as they evaluate travel for their employees to and from China.

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How This Impacts Mobility

Wuhan is a major industrial city in China with a population of more than 8 million people, the ninth largest in the country, and China is a top location for transferees as well as workers for other countries. Foreign companies with operations in Wuhan and China will need to assess what is best for their local employees, expats and employees in other countries making trips to China. At a minimum, business travel to and from China will be limited for the next couple of months and those who do travel could undergo medical screening and face entry restrictions and potentially temporary bans depending on the country to which they return.

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