COVID-19 continues to affect our lives in multiple ways including domestic and international travel.
Pinpointing when things may return to as they were before the pandemic remains guesswork at this stage. Although leisure and business travel has slowed significantly, it hasn’t come to a complete halt.
Travelling anywhere right now – especially by air – is tricky because of the health risk it poses. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. For example, according to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada, 973 flights flew into or within Canada between February 4 and August 24 with carriers of the illness onboard.
Some of those flights, as per federal government data, were carrying passengers who were infected with the virus. Though airline passengers are subject to a health check prior to boarding a flight and are not allowed to board if they have any COVID-19 symptoms, it’s difficult to physically distance from others onboard an airplane.
Meanwhile, a Leger survey in September found 69% of Canadians and 49% of Americans believe that, within the next three months, their country will return to lockdown, with businesses closing and orders to stay at home. Moreover, 50% of Canadians and 34% of Americans believe the worst of the crisis is yet to come. With a second wave of COVID-19 infections appearing in pockets across the country including in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, it’s tough to predict when things will improve.
Nevertheless, some people may still need or want to travel. Up until now, getting adequate travel insurance coverage during the pandemic – including protection against the risk of being infected by COVID-19 in particular – hasn’t been easy. But change appears to be in the air.
Insurers, airlines roll out COVID-19 travel coverage
For example, Manulife is offering what it calls its COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan. Available to Canadians travelling domestically or internationally, including to countries with a Level 3 travel advisory, the policy will provide emergency medical coverage, including additional specific coverage for COVID-19 and related conditions. It also includes trip interruption benefits in the event of a quarantine.
Meanwhile, Allianz Global Assistance (AGA) is offering up to $1 million in emergency medical coverage as part of its COVID-19 Insurance and Assistance Plan for travellers to international destinations including the U.S.
The AGA standalone plan covers treatment and expenses only for the virus and can be purchased separately from standard travel insurance policies. To qualify, travellers of any age must have no signs or symptoms of COVID-19 in the 14 days before they leave Canada.
TuGo also introduced a COVID-19 emergency care travel policy. TuGo’s policy provides coverage for emergency medical care and quarantine-related expenses up to $500,000 if the traveller tests positive for and is diagnosed with COVID-19 while travelling. It includes trip interruption coverage if the Canadian government’s current Level 3 ‘avoid non-essential travel’ advisory changes to a Level 4 (known as ‘avoid all travel’) during the trip, and a traveller chooses to return to Canada ahead of schedule.
Other insurers have also introduced COVID-specific travel coverage including Medipac, Blue Cross in Ontario and Quebec, and Tour+Med, as have some airlines, such as Air Canada, WestJet, and Sunwing. The U.S.-Canada border remains closed, but Canadians are permitted to fly stateside.
However, the Canadian government continues to advise against all non-essential travel abroad whether by air or sea. Even if you do have an insurance policy that includes coverage for COVID-19, the plans vary, and not all policies may cover expenses incurred if you are required to quarantine in another country.
In addition, COVID-19 travel coverage may not include trip cancellation protection since it is designed to cover unexpected mishaps, whereas the virus is a known issue. Furthermore, all international travellers returning to Canada are required to self-isolate for up to 14 days.
Destinations where Canadians are welcome
Many countries are allowing Canadians to visit despite the ongoing pandemic. The Canadian government maintains a list of nations where Canadians can visit and if any travel advisories are associated with them.
Aside from the U.S., southern destinations including the Dominican Republic, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados and Bermuda are welcoming Canadian tourists. So too are popular hot spots like Mexico, Jamaica, and Cuba.
If you’re going to jet off to another country (or to another province) for business or pleasure, be sure to consult the local health advisories of the region you are visiting before departing and purchase a travel insurance policy. Your provincial health care plan won’t provide you with emergency medical coverage outside of your home province if you need it.