COVID-19: Health check guidance for passenger railway companies managing travellers during the on-boarding procedure

Overview

The Minister of Transport has issued a Ministerial Order to Prevent Certain Persons from Boarding Intercity Passenger Rail in Canada due to COVID-19, under section 32.01 of the Railway Safety Act, requiring that passenger rail carriers (except commuter rail operators) under federal jurisdiction:

Beginning on March 30, 2020 at 12:00pm Eastern Daylight Time:

  • Where possible, to notify passengers before boarding the train, that they may be subject to a health check to prevent the spread of COVID-19 ;
  • Conduct mandatory health checks of every passenger and ask every passenger the additional questions listed in the Order prior to their boarding; and
  • Advise every passenger that they are not to provide answers that they know to be false or misleading.

In addition to the requirements under the Ministerial Order, Transport Canada is requesting that trains read out the announcement, similar to the one in Annex A, prior to or on-board the train.

Purpose

  • To provide guidance on notifying passengers, who present themselves at Canadian train stations, that they may be subject to measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at their destination; and,
  • To provide guidance in conducting the health check and in detecting and managing travellers with suspected COVID-19.

Passenger Rail Carriers should:

  1. Notify passengers at time of ticket purchase that they will be subject to a health check and to wear a mask when physical distancing from others is not possible in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19;
  2. Notify passengers, prior to boarding the train, that they will be required to undergo a health check.  This will involve answering a few simple questions to which you must answer truthfully; and
  3. Have employees read out an announcement, similar to the one provided below, prior to or onboard the train. Where required, the rail carrier should post equivalent signage.

Passenger Rail Carriers must:

  1. Conduct health checks of every person prior to their boarding;
  2. Ask every passenger additional questions listed in the Order;

  3. Advise every passenger that they are not to provide answers that they know to be false or misleading;

  4. Ensure that every person, who is at least six years of age, be in possession of a mask before boarding; and

  5. Ensure that every person, who is at least six years of age, wear a mask at all times during the boarding process and during travel.

Process for Health Check

The management of all travellers at railway stations in the context of the current COVID-19 disease outbreak includes the following steps:

  1. Conducting the health check – Railway operators are required to do a health check of all rail passengers before they board a train in Canada. The health check (identified below) has been approved by the Public Health Agency of Canada and is based on guidance material published by the World Health Organization on February 16, 2020. The timing for conducting the Health Check and additional questions listed in the Order can vary between companies based on operational feasibility. For example:  at the time of ticket purchase; by an employee at the check-in counter: at the boarding gate; or at the passenger car door asking the traveller the questions. The visual observation for symptoms may be done by an employee at the check-in counter or boarding gate to look for signs that the person is unwell.
  2. Denial of boarding – In the event that the railway operator observes that the rail passenger has COVID-19 symptoms or that their response to the health check or the additional questions indicates a need to deny boarding, the railway company will be required to refuse boarding unless a medical certificate is presented that confirms that the symptoms that the person is exhibiting are not related to the COVID-19 virus.
  3. Provide explanation for future travel – Railway operators will explain to rail passengers who are denied boarding, based on the health check or observation, that they will need to wait 10 days before they are able to board a train or any other carrier in Canada, or that they will need to provide a medical certificate indicating that the symptoms that they are exhibiting are not related to the COVID-19 virus.
  4. Advise rail passengers to follow local health authorities related to COVID-19 – Railway operators should advise rail passengers who have been denied boarding a train to follow the guidance/direction from the local health authorities for dealing with the COVID-19 infection.

Questionnaire for Health Check

Railway operators should protect themselves by maintaining more than 2 m between themselves and travellers at all times, which is also known as physical distancing. Staff should be instructed to encourage travellers to also practice physical distancing when possible.

If the response (or non-response) to any of the four questions below results in the answer that is in bold, then a denial of boarding must be applied, in accordance with the Ministerial Order.

  1. Do you have a fever and a cough? If YES, or passenger refuses to answer, deny boarding.
  2. Do you have a fever and breathing difficulty? If YES, or passenger refuses to answer, deny boarding.
  3. Have you been refused boarding in the past 10 days by a company or any other carrier due to a medical reason related to COVID-19? If YES, or passenger refuses to answer, deny boarding.
  4. Are you subject to a provincial or local public health order? If YES, or passenger refuses to answer, deny boarding.
  5. Do you have, or do you suspect that you have, COVID-19? If YES, or passenger refuses to answer, deny boarding.

Masks

A mask means any mask, including a non-medical mask, that is made of multiple layers of breathable tightly woven fabric, such as cotton and an effective middle filter layer, which are large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth and chin without gaping and are secured to the face with ties or ear loops. Masks are an additional measure to prevent respiratory droplets from contaminating others or landing on surfaces. For further guidance on masks, refer to the following link:  COVID-19 mask use: Advice for community settings

Appropriate Use of Masks

Masks should:

  1. Be made of multiple layers of tightly woven fabric such as cotton or linen;
  2. Be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the mouth, nose and chin without gaps;
  3. Fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops;
  4. Be made of breathable materials;
  5. Be comfortable and not require frequent adjustments;
  6. Be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty; and
  7. Be stored in a clean paper or cloth bag until worn again.

Masks should not:

  1. Be placed on:
    1. Persons under the age of six years;
    2. Persons who are unable to remove it without assistance;
    3. Persons who provide a medical certificate certifying that they are unable to wear a mask for a medical reason;
    4. A person who is unconscious;
    5. Safety endangered – any situation where wearing a face covering would impede personal safety (including when eating or drinking); and,
    6. Subject to authorities – any situation where a local authority requires that an individual nose and/or mouth be visible and/or exposed;
  2. Be made of materials that easily fall apart, like tissues;
  3. Be shared with others;
  4. Impair vision or interfere with tasks and
  5. Be removed to talk to someone.

When worn properly, a person wearing a mask can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.

Managing Ill Persons Aboard a Train

When a passenger informs a railway employee that they have, or when a railway employee suspects that the passenger has, developed symptoms related to COVID-19 while on board, the employee should:

  1. Provide the passenger with a mask to prevent the spread of droplets. If a mask is not available or tolerable, the passenger should be instructed to cough/sneeze into their elbow or a facial tissue;
  2. Instruct the passenger to remain seated as much as possible to prevent the spread of droplets;
  3. If the passenger requires the use of the washroom, immediately disinfect high touch surfaces in the washroom;
  4. Wash their hands or use hand sanitizer after each interaction with the ill person; and
  5. Upon arrival at the destination, see that the passenger be transferred to emergency health services in accordance with direction from public health authorities after the other passengers have deboarded.

Note: Ideally, one employee should be designated to provide on-board service to the ill passenger and their travelling companions.

Annex A: Sample notification to train passengers

In order to manage the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Canada, along with the provinces and territories have put in place recommended practices.

Prior to boarding a train you may be requested to undergo a health check. This will involve answering a few simple questions to which you must answer truthfully.

When arriving at your destination, you may be subject to further measures taken by the provincial or territorial government to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As a reminder, no person should board a passenger train when they are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Should symptoms such as a fever, cough or difficulty breathing develop while on-board, please notify railway employees immediately.

Based on a recommendation from Transport Canada, during the voyage, you should wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose in situations where you cannot maintain two metres of physical separation.