General Occupational Health Advisory (COVID-19): Annex B - Advice for Canada-based staff at missions abroad

From: Health Canada

Updated: 10 July 2020
Public Service Occupational Health Program (PSOHP)
Please note that this advice may change as more information becomes available.

Canada-Based Staff (CBS) include employees from Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), Department of National Defence (DND), Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). This advisory pertains to CBS working outside of Canada.

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Please refer to PSOHP's General Occupational Health Advisory for general information and advice on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). More information is available at Canada.ca/coronavirus and on the COVID-19 site for Government of Canada employees.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) assessed COVID-19 as a pandemic. Staff at missions must stay up to date on the rapidly-evolving situation and are encouraged to monitor local public health and WHO guidance on a regular basis.

If CBS have concerns about the local public health measures in place where their mission is located, they should follow recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) when PHAC is recommending a higher level of precaution.

If CBS are concerned about the standard of medical care that is available to them where their mission is located, they should contact their Emergency Watch and Response Centre at +1-613-996-8885 or by email at sos@international.gc.ca. CBS will be put in touch with a designated medical consultant.

Advice to all Canada-based staff working at missions abroad

Hygiene measures

Cleaning protocols

All employees should follow the measures recommended by PHAC for Preventing COVID-19 in the Workplace: Employers, Employees and Essential Service Workers.

If CBS or their family members have other medical conditions or concerns, they can contact their Emergency Watch and Response Centre at +1-613-996-8885 or by email at sos@international.gc.ca and they will be put in touch with the designated medical consultant.

It is important to also stay informed regarding travel advice. Please consult travel.gc.ca including the Pandemic COVID-19 travel health notice.

There are simple, practical things that individuals and families can do to be prepared for a widespread community outbreak:

If employees or family members at missions abroad develop symptoms such as new or worsening cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, temperature equal to or over 38°C, feeling feverish, chills, fatigue or weakness, muscle or body aches, new loss of smell or taste, headache, gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting, or feeling very unwell they should:

If an employee at a mission abroad develops symptoms (e.g., new or worsening cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, temperature equal to or over 38°C, feeling feverish, chills, fatigue or weakness, muscle or body aches, new loss of smell or taste, headache, gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting, or feeling very unwell) while at the mission, they should:

Advice for all managers

Managers should follow the measures recommended by PHAC for Preventing COVID-19 in the Workplace: Employers, Employees and Essential Service Workers.

Frontline service delivery

For federal workplaces that offer non-health care client services in person at missions abroad

General recommendations

Continue to work with your mission security department to coordinate the following efforts:

Clients should be screened for symptoms or exposure to COVID-19 prior to entering the workplace, through passive screening (signage) and active screening (asking questions). Missions should stay up to date on public health measures that are put in place at the local level, and adapt their screening procedures accordingly.

For instance, if the local public health authorities are using additional criteria for self-isolation (e.g., self-isolation of all persons who travelled to a certain geographic area or were in a specific location such as on a certain cruise ship), the mission should modify the screening questions below accordingly.

Passive screening

At designated entrances, prior to any visitor interaction, install signage to remind all visitors that no one with symptoms (e.g., new or worsening cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, temperature equal to or over 38°C, feeling feverish, chills, fatigue or weakness, muscle or body aches, new loss of smell or taste, headache, gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting, or feeling very unwell) is permitted to enter the mission.

Active screening

The following standard screening questions can be asked in areas of first contact with visitors at the mission:

If they answer "yes" to this question, they should be asked to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue (if a non-medical mask or cloth face covering is available, it may be offered). The visitor should then move away from others and perform hand hygiene as soon as possible. The visitor should be asked to follow local public health advice regarding seeking medical attention and/or isolation.

If the visitor answers "yes" to any one of these two questions, do not allow the visitor to enter the facility and ask them to return 14 days or more after their last contact with a person with symptoms of COVID-19 or after they have completed their period of isolation/quarantine/self-isolation.

For Employees Assisting Clients Outside of Government of Canada Offices:

Personal protective equipment recommendations

Depending on the specific work situation, non-medical masks/cloth face coverings and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) are the last line of defence when all other measures are not practical, inadequate or exhausted. PPE such as medical masks, should be used on the basis of risk exposure and in compliance with public health and occupational health and safety guidance for COVID-19. Please note that NMMs and/or cloth face coverings are not personal protective equipment but rather are an additional measure that people can take to protect others around them.

PSOHP recommends the use of the following PPE when interacting with clients abroad:

Other sources of information

Public Health Agency of Canada

Global Affairs Canada

Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer

Justice Canada

Employment and Social Development Canada Labour Program

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

World Health Organization

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