Just the Facts
Travel-related exposure to COVID-19

Release date: April 8, 2020

Since the onset of COVID-19, health authorities have been monitoring the transmission of the virus via travel and community exposures. In Canada, as in other countries, the first cases of COVID-19 were attributed to travel-related exposure. After the government of Canada advised Canadians on March 13, 2020 to avoid all non-essential travel, new cases are increasingly being attributed to community transmission.

Travel to and from Canada was increasing prior to COVID-19

In Canada, as of April 7, about 26% of COVID-19 cases to date have been related to travel exposure.

Travel has always been important to Canadians, both as travellers and as hosts to travellers from elsewhere. In 2019, Canadian residents made 12.3 million trips overseas (countries other than the United States), surpassing the previous record set in 2017. At the same time, Canada received a record 22.1 million international tourists from abroad in 2019, surpassing the previous year's record by approximately one million. Moreover, this time last year (March 2019) saw 4.8 million Canadians returning to Canada after having been abroad, with about 4-out-of-5 returning from the United States. That same month, the majority of people who travelled to Canada were from Europe (42%) or from Asia (35%) (Figure 1).

Travel related COVID-19 cases more prevalent for males

About 52% of the COVID-19 cases in Canada related to travel are among males, 48% are among females. Approximately 9% of travel-related cases have been hospitalized (among those whose hospitalization status is known), and about 62% of these cases are among males.

Age distribution of travel-related COVID-19 cases differs from community exposure

The age distribution of COVID-19 cases in Canada among those with travel-related exposure is somewhat different from those with community exposure. For those under age 40 or aged 60 to 69, exposure to COVID-19 as of April 7, tended to be travel-related whereas for 80 years of age or older, community exposure was more prevalent. (Figure 2).

Figure 1 Percent distribution of all non-resident travellers to Canada by source continent, March 2019

Data table for Figure 1 
Data table for figure 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for figure 1 percent (appearing as column headers).
Europe 42
Africa 2
Asia 35
North America, Central America and Caribbean 10
South America 5
Oceania and other islands 6

Figure 2 Percent distribution of COVID-19 cases by exposure setting by age group, as of April 7 2020, Canada.

Data table for Figure 2 
Data table for figure 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for figure 2. The information is grouped by Age group in years (appearing as row headers), Travel-related and Community, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group in years Travel-related Community
under age 40 33.60 29.91
40 to 59 34.33 35.79
60 to 69 19.48 14.40
70 to 79 9.94 9.01
80 or older 2.66 10.89
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