Province suspends all work-related travel to countries under travel advisories
A number of New Brunswick businesses have also cancelled work travel abroad
The province has suspended all work-related travel to countries where active travel notices have been issued by the federal government due to coronavirus.
The countries include China, Hong Kong, Iran, Japan, northern Italy, Singapore and South Korea.
"Government of New Brunswick work-related travel to other international destinations is limited to essential business until further notice," said Vicky Deschenes, a spokesperson for the province's Finance-Treasury Board.
She said the preventive measures took effect immediately Thursday and will be in effect until further notice.
Deschenes said this would help limit the spread of the virus and promote health and wellness in the workplace. She said it would also help "ensure the continuity of Government of New Brunswick's service."
The federal government has issued several advisories since the outbreak started.
No cases have been reported in New Brunswick.
But a number of businesses have cancelled work travel outside the province because of cases elsewhere.
A digital experience
For March, San Francisco software company Salesforce, which also has a large office in Fredericton, is prohibiting cross-border travel. The company says it is also restricting all "but the most critical domestic travel" and replacing in-person customer events with "digital experiences."
"Certainly, these steps are designed to protect our employees, customers, and partners, but we also know that the steps we collectively take are helping our society," said Amy Weaver, president and chief legal officer for Salesforce.
In a news release, Weaver also said the company has asked employees to stay home if they are experiencing symptoms of illness of any kind.
"We are monitoring the situation around the clock and will continue to update our approach as information becomes available from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and local authorities," she said.
The National Bank of Canada has also suspended non-essential business travel for all employees. This would apply to all employees working at about 25 locations across the province.
Working from home
Although the province has a heavy export base, David Duplisea, CEO of the Saint John Chamber of Commerce, said a significant number of businesses have cancelled trips or have been looking at restricted travel.
Instead, many of them are taking conference calls or working from home.
"It's better to be safe than sorry," he said.
Duplisea went on to say many local businesses are concerned about revealing any suspensions in work travel, fearing a decrease in business competitiveness and sales.
With many Fredericton businesses having global clients, Krista Ross, CEO of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, said COVID-19 is also having an impact on her members.
"Our members are saying it is extremely tough on business, their supply chain and more importantly their interaction with their customer base," she said. "It is has become more complicated to ship or visit customers."
In a Facebook message, she said a major client of one chamber member just advised they "can't accept a visit from an installation professional on a Fredericton-provided equipment component."
There are 1,000 members of the Fredericton chamber. Ross wouldn't say which members were impacted.
Meanwhile, two major Canadian travel insurance providers — Manulife and TuGo — will no longer reimburse new customers who need to cancel their trips because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Travellers with regular trip cancellation insurance typically have been able to get reimbursed if, after booking their trip, Ottawa issued a coronavirus-related advisory to avoid non-essential travel to their destination.
However, Manulife and TuGo will no longer offer this type of coverage. Both companies said the coronavirus is now a "known" issue and therefore cancellation coverage no longer applies — as it's designed for unexpected mishaps.
Trip to Italy cancelled
Ross and John Wishart, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton, were supposed to be on a boat tour in Venice this week for work. The tour was cancelled last week by the tour operator, Indus Travel, a Canadian-based company.
The tour, which is also known as a "familiarization trip," was being offered to chambers across North America, who would then pass on travel information to their 800 members in the future to go and network with other companies abroad.
"In hindsight I think we were relieved that the tour operator made the decision to cancel last week because with every day, the situation looked a little more bleak," Wishart said.
Both CEOs paid for the trip themselves and were told they would be getting their money back.
There were 18 members from chambers across North America planning to travel to northern Italy this week.
"This isn't the best time to be visiting that region."
With files from Sophia Harris