Essential health care workers exempt from 14-day isolation period after international travel

In light of the evolving nature of the COVID-19 virus, the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) has provided clarification regarding the 14-day isolation period for people returning from international travel. As of March 16, 2020, essential health care workers are partially exempt from this requirement.

According to a letter sent from the office of the PHO, health care workers who return from international travel and are essential to the delivery of resident/client/patient care may return to work. When health care workers are not at work, they are required to self-isolate.

For the purposes of this directive, employers may interpret the term “health care worker” broadly. Any individual that is essential to the operation of your care organization may be included, such as dietary aides, housekeepers, schedulers, etc.

Essential workers are people who provide services that are considered critical to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning and who have been determined by the leadership of their organization, on an individual basis, to be critical to delivering these essential services.

If a health care worker has returned from a high-risk area, they are still required to self-isolate. High-risk areas currently include Iran, Italy and Hubei province in China. Additional regions may be added in the coming days.

Health care workers returning from international travel should take additional precautions to reduce the risk to their patients, colleagues, and the public should they become symptomatic, including:

  1. Self-monitor daily for signs and symptoms of illness;
  2. Wear a surgical mask at all times and in all areas of your workplace;
  3. Follow infection prevention and control protocols including diligent hand hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment when delivering patient care;
  4. Reduce close contact with other health care workers and avoid shared spaces where possible;
  5. Avoid close contact with others when traveling to and from work and between shifts; and
  6. Self-isolate at home on days when not required at their workplace.

The PHO has also advised that there may additional risk factors in individual care settings. Employers may determine that a higher level of caution is required, and therefore direct health care workers to not attend work.