This update is provided for archival purposes only.

Public Health guidance and University of Waterloo operations may have changed. For the most up-to-date information, please visit our COVID-19 frequently asked questions.

Coronavirus update: travel outside Canada suspended

Thursday, March 12, 2020

This message was originally sent to University employees by Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor.

We are suspending all travel outside Canada that is not vital to our academic mission

The global COVID-19 situation continues to evolve. We are giving this direction because we want to protect the health, safety and wellness of our community. We also want to help reduce the spread of disease.  

Travel suspended outside Canada 

On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) described COVID-19 as a global pandemic. Global Affairs Canada has issued active travel health notices for several destinations.  

In light of these changes we have decided to suspend all travel outside Canada that is not vital to our academic mission until further notice. 

Travel that is vital to our academic mission includes, but is not limited to: 

  • co-op work terms overseas (if work terms cannot be deferred to another term) 
  • exchange programs 
  • school of optometry clerkship program (if clerkships cannot be deferred to another term) 

Travel that is not vital to our academic mission includes, but is not limited to: 

  • participating in academic conferences or presentations 
  • meetings with academic partners or collaborators 
  • professional or personal development  

If you are uncertain or need advice about this rule, please discuss with your supervisor.

All University-sanctioned travel to all areas of China and Iran remains suspended - regardless of whether the travel is vital to our academic mission. Effective immediately, we are also suspending all travel to destinations that Global Affairs Canada lists as "avoid all non-essential travel" or "avoid all travel". This is in line with our current travel policy. 

You don't have to travel if you don't want to 

You do not have to travel on behalf of the University if you do not want to do so - even if the travel is vital to our academic mission. 

If you do travel, the University expects you to take all reasonable precautions to reduce the likelihood of exposing the university community to increased risk when you get back. For most people, this may mean you need to monitor for symptoms or self-isolate.

Consider alternatives to travel 

If you have upcoming travel plans, either personal or University-sanctioned, you ought to consider: 

  • is the travel vital to our academic mission? 
  • what is the risk at your destination? 
  • Can you make alternate plans like videoconferencing?   

Normal operating funds bear costs of cancellation 

If you have booked University travel and need or want to cancel, individual departments or units will need to bear cancellation costs.  

If you would pay for the trip with money other than the University's operating funds, you should check with the source of those funds to see if they will reimburse cancellation costs. Researchers can apply to their Tri-council funding agency for reimbursement of cost incurred due to COVID-19.  

If you do make plans to travel, we encourage you to buy fully refundable fares and bookings to reduce the cost of cancellations. 

New requirement to register all University-sanctioned travel 

Starting immediately, all employees must register all international travel with the Safety Abroad Team. Doing so allows the team to provide you with: 

  • to access travel safety information 
  • emergency help 
  • access to Anvil Group services  

More information is coming 

We expect to give you more information and advice related to our response to COVID-19 in the coming hours and days. 

We are keeping the University’s COVID-19 website up to date with information. As always, please If you have questions or concerns about coronavirus and Waterloo, please email and our teams will help to find the right campus contact.