It’s been a tumultuous year for the travel industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has all but wiped it out. Most countries closed their borders and flights were restricted to essential travel only. For Canadians, deciding to travel or notice confusing, especially with some insurers and airlines offering COVID-19 travel insurance packages.
Many Canadians are justifiably wondering what that means. Has the country opened its borders? Is flying now available to anyone and not just essential travelers? Do these newer insurance solutions adequately cover disrupted travel?
As the holiday season looms, Canadians usually prepare to visit family and friends in other provinces, while snowbirds fly south to the U.S. or travel to other countries. Mixed messages don’t make it easy for people to know where they stand in a COVID-19 world.
Are Canadians Allowed to Travel?
Technically, Canadians are not banned from traveling. The Canadian government, through the Public Health Agency of Canada, has had a constant advisory in place throughout the pandemic. It states people should “avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice.”
Levels of severity assess the threat. Currently, Canada places most countries at Level 3, which means people should not travel to those destinations unless it’s for essential reasons. Certain countries are under a Level 4 warning, which means avoiding travel for any purpose.
On paper, the advisories look like a done deal. Canadians are not permitted to travel unless they must. However, the government notice is an advisory, not an order. There is no law to stop Canadians from leaving the country.
Does That Mean Any Canadian Can Leave on Vacation?
In theory, yes, but in practice, any Canadian traveling for nonessential reasons would face several significant hurdles:
1. Finding flights remains a problem
Yes, air routes are slowly reopening, but there is nowhere near the same number of flights as before.
2. Facing airport scrutiny
There are no legal restrictions, but travelers can expect questions about their destinations and why they are traveling.
3. Destinations are limited
Many countries still have their borders closed to all but essential travelers. If you land at a destination and cannot explain why your stay is necessary, there’s a good chance you will be on the first plane back to Canada.
4. Many countries remain locked down
Even if you arrive at a destination, you may not have much of a vacation. Because of local restrictions, businesses, tourist hotspots, and infrastructure such as public transportation may be closed or unavailable.
5. You may not return to Canada
The government is clear that people who travel to other countries are at the mercy of the pandemic and restrictions imposed by those nations. In the advisory, the Public Health Agency of Canada states:
“Local authorities abroad may impose control measures suddenly, including movement restrictions such as quarantine. In some countries, travelers may have limited access to timely and appropriate health care should they become ill.”
Can COVID-19 Travel Insurance Help?
Having COVID-19 protection on your travel insurance is certainly helpful, particularly for essential travelers. Those looking to sneak out of Canada for a foreign holiday may find the coverage less helpful.
Manulife has its COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan, which is limited to customers visiting countries with a Level 3 advisory. It is worth noting that coverage is also available for domestic travel in Canada. This policy provides emergency medical coverage, including specific protection for COVID-19.
Allianz Global Assistance has the COVID-19 Insurance and Assistance Plan with up to $1 million in emergency medical cover. This standalone package focuses on COVID-19 and is an add-on to the company’s standard travel insurance.
Other insurers offering COVID-19 travel insurance include Medipac, Tour+Med, TuGo, and Blue Cross. Airlines are also on board with specialized coverage available from WestJet, Air Canada, and Sunwing.
While coverage will undoubtedly helpful during a global pandemic, there are some important things to consider. Firstly, most insurers will require you to prove you have no COVID-19 symptoms before your travel dates. Companies may also ask you to show your travel plans are for essential reasons.
As with any insurance product, no two are identical. In other words, make sure you read your policy details. Take time to understand it, including the coverage limits.
What’s clear is that having travel insurance is better than having no coverage. If you are planning to travel, make sure you have insurance to protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances. Itis sound advice at the best of times, but arguably becomes a vital investment in a COVID-19 world.