COVID-19 and Travelling: Here’s What You Need to Know

As the world reacts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, questions abound over what the impacts are for Canadian travellers who may still be outside of the country, or who have trips planned in the months ahead.

The Canadian government announced it will prohibit all non-essential travel to and from the U.S. as of March 20 for at least 30 days, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged all Canadians who are abroad to return home as soon as possible if they can. As of March 13, the government has a global non-essential travel advisory in place, which means you should not travel outside of the country at this time.

What Should Canadians Who Are Outside of Canada Do?

The federal government is telling Canadians abroad they should return home as soon as possible. But if they have COVID-19 symptoms, they will not be allowed to enter Canada, and will need to stay where they are for 14 days in quarantine.

That will undoubtedly raise questions among those travellers as to whether or not their emergency medical coverage will protect them while in quarantine. Moreover, can they trigger their trip cancellation coverage if they have that as part of their policies, and get coverage for a flight home? People in this situation should contact their insurer immediately to find out what their options are.

In the meantime, if you are outside of Canada, take precautions to protect yourself, including:

  • Practice social distancing: avoid large crowds and crowded areas
  • Stay away from people who are sick
  • Keep on top of the situation where you are and follow the advice of local health officials
  • Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer that has an alcohol volume of 60% or greater
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze with your elbow

What If I Am Outside of Canada Now and Suffer an Injury or Get Sick, But It’s Not COVID-19?

If you are already in another country, have a travel insurance policy that includes emergency medical coverage, and suffer an injury or illness that is unrelated to COVID-19, you should be covered as according to per the terms and conditions of your policy. To be certain, call your insurance provider and ask what you are covered for and, just as important, for what situations or illnesses you do not have coverage.

What If I Am Outside of Canada, Have COVID-19 Symptoms, But My Travel Insurance Provider Will Not Cover My Expenses?

The Canadian government is providing financial assistance for Canadians affected by COVID-19 who are outside of Canada by way of a repayable loan. Through the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad, up to $5,000 may be available to you to cover your expenses until you can get home. To apply, start by emailing the government at CAN.finances.CV19@international.gc.ca.

Where Can I Get Updates and Information about Canadian Travel Advisories?

Go to the federal government’s website for all travel advisories. Also, keep an eye on your airline’s or tour operator’s website for any updates they may provide.

I Am an Ontario Resident Who Has Been Outside of Canada for More Than Seven Months. Will OHIP Cover Me When I Return?

Typically, Ontarians who spend more than seven months out of the province are subject to a three-month waiting period before they can re-apply for Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) coverage. However, the Ontario government says it will waive the waiting period for residents returning to the province, so they can have OHIP coverage immediately. A formal announcement from the Ontario government is expected in the coming days.

I Have Family Members Visiting Me in Canada. They Purchased Visitors to Canada Travel Insurance. Are They Still Covered?

Provided your visitors meet the Canadian government’s criteria to enter Canada, in general, if you purchased a visitors to Canada insurance policy before March 16, your guests will be covered for COVID-19 or other conditions. Check with your insurance provider to be certain.

If you purchased a visitors to Canada insurance policy on or after March 16 (but before your guests arrived in Canada), the coverage may still apply provided your visitors meet the Canadian government’s criteria to enter the country. If they are already in Canada, they should also be covered as per the terms and conditions of the policy, unless they were insured by a different company in the previous 30 days.

Can I Get an Extension for My Visitors to Canada Insurance Policy?

If you are already in Canada and wish to extend your existing coverage to protect you from COVID-19 or related conditions, many insurers will permit you to do so. However, if you leave Canada and enter the U.S., you will not be covered if you contract COVID-19.

What If I Have Travel Insurance and Plans to Travel in the Future?

If you already have a travel insurance policy that you purchased for your upcoming travel plans, contact your insurance provider and ask how COVID-19 may impact your policy, including:

  • Will my existing policy’s emergency medical coverage cover me in the event I become ill and am subsequently quarantined?
  • Does the federal government’s global non-essential travel advisory allow me to activate my policy’s trip cancellation coverage?
  • If the government’s non-essential travel advisory is lifted, will my policy still cover me in the event I become ill while travelling?
  • What happens if I get sick before travelling? Can I cancel my trip and activate my policy’s trip cancellation coverage?

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