Canada advises avoiding non-essential travel to Iran due to COVID-19 health risk

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      After several new cases of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, were found in Canada this past week linked to travel to Iran, Canada has raised the travel health risk level for Iran.

      Today (February 29), the federal government raised the travel health notice for Iran from Level 2 to Level 3, which means Canadians should avoid all non-essential travel to Iran.

      “In Iran, there are indicators that suggest widespread community transmission is occurring,” the notice reads. “Confirmed cases that are linked to Iran are being reported in other countries, including Canada, and more are expected.”

      This puts Iran, which has rapidly surged to 593 cases (43 deaths and 123 recoveries), in the same travel health category as China, which has had over 79,800 cases (2,870 deaths and 41,800 recoveries). China's Hubei province is listed as Level 4, or avoid all travel. 

      However, the majority of the most recent COVID-19 cases in Canada have been linked to travel in Iran.

      Today, B.C. announced one new case, linked to Iran, and Ontario announced three new cases, with two of them linked to Iran and the third is the husband of one of them.

      The previous two Ontario cases, announced on February 28, involved one man who returned from Iran (the other man returned from Egypt).

      The prior four cases—two in B.C. and two in Ontario—involved women who returned from Iran and men in close contact with them became infected. 

      On February 27, Quebec announced its first case, in a woman who returned from Iran.

      A total of nine cases in Canada, out of 20, are now linked to travel to Iran or close contact with someone who travelled to Iran.

      At Level 2, or practise special precautions, are South Korea (over 3,500 cases, with 17 deaths and 30 recoveries) and Northern Italy (over 1,100 in Italy, with 29 deaths and 50 recoveries), which are the top two countries with the most cases outside mainland China, followed by Iran.

      Level 1 destinations, which indicates practise usual health precautions, include Japan (241 cases), Singapore (102), and Hong Kong (95).

      There are currently approximately 87,000 cases worldwide, with almost 3,000 deaths and over 42,300 recoveries.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook