Canada preparing plane to fly Canadians from Wuhan, once China gives OK

By Mike Blanchfield and Hina Alam

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canada has a plane being prepared to fly Canadians out of the province in China at the centre of an outbreak of a new coronavirus, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Wednesday.

The government is also advising all Canadians to avoid  “non-essential” travel to China and has also scaled back its diplomatic presence in the country because of the outbreak.

The next step in the evacuation process is to secure co-operation from China to assist the 160 Canadians who have requested some form of help, Champagne said. Not all of them want to leave, he emphasized in an appearance on Parliament Hill.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, later warned that not everyone who wants to come back to Canada may be able to leave.

“The Chinese authority will not let anyone who might be infected on the plane,” she told the House of Commons health committee.

China has all but sealed off one of its central provinces where the novel coronavirus was first detected. The virus causes respiratory symptoms similar to the common cold, but it can be deadly in very severe cases.

At Champagne’s side, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the government still has to decide what will happen with the Canadians who leave China, so as to prevent any spread of the illness.

Asked whether returning travellers would be held in quarantine, Hajdu replied:  “We will always work to ensure the health of Canadians, whether they’re abroad or whether they’re here. So, yes what we’re looking at is a scenario where we have all the measures in place to protect Canadians from exposure to the virus. Having said that, that’s about as far as I can go.”

Officials say the 201 Americans taken to the United States from the Chinese city at the centre of the virus outbreak are undergoing three days of monitoring at a southern California military base to make sure they do not show signs of the virus.

Hajdu said the U.S. has a process that is working  “efficiently.”

Champagne said Canada is working with allies to co-ordinate plans and make the logistics work, and that could take more time.

Some other countries have promised similar help for their citizens stuck in the province of Hubei particularly those that have diplomatic offices there, which Canada does not and Champagne said Canada isn’t far behind them.

“The only plane which has landed is a U.S. plane that was scheduled to be there,” Champagne said, which was then followed by a plane sent by Japan earlier Wednesday.

He said Canada was at the  “forefront” of the international response.

The virus has killed 170 people and infected more than 7,700 on the Chinese mainland and abroad.

A Twitter message by the Canadian Embassy in China said that as of Wednesday its diplomatic missions are working with reduced staff due to the coronavirus. It urged Canadians in need of emergency consular assistance to call or email the emergency response centre of Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa.

It also posted the contact phone number of 1-613-996-8885 and the email address of sos?international.gc.ca.

A teacher who is living with his pregnant Canadian wife and child in a city that is the epicentre of China‘s coronavirus outbreak had been hoping to leave the country on a British flight.

Tom Williams is hoping to get his wife, Lauren, who is about 35 weeks pregnant, out of Wuhan, the Hubei city that has been essentially locked down with the emergence of the disease. The couple also has a two-and-a-half-year-old son, James, who is Canadian.

Williams is a British expat and his wife and son are from British Columbia.

“We’re just currently waiting to hear confirmation whether we’ve got space on the British flight,” Williams told The Canadian Press in a FaceTime interview from China on Wednesday, before Champagne’s announcement.

The family received a call from officials in Ottawa earlier this week, who asked permission to share his wife’s file with the British Embassy, he said.

“We have some stuff laid out in case it’s a last-minute departure.”

At least 250 Canadians have registered with Global Affairs Canada to say they are in Wuhan, said Champagne, who added that officials are trying to contact everyone to assess their needs.

Williams said looking at options isn’t really helping people on the ground, although he understands that Canada doesn’t have a diplomatic presence in Wuhan, a city of 11 million. Canadian offices in Beijing and Shanghai are closed until Sunday for the Lunar New Year holiday.

“We’re just a little anxious and hoping for some answers pretty soon,” said Williams, who added that he and his family are  “still healthy and still OK.”

The family went out during the day Wednesday and the streets were “very quiet,” he said. They take their temperatures whenever they enter and leave their apartment complex.

James was watching “Toy Story” Wednesday afternoon.

“He’s a little bit clingy, but we’re doing our best with train sets and different things. Trying to keep him entertained.”

Canadian Wayne Duplessis, who teaches in China, said he and his family registered with the emergency response centre in Ottawa to know what help may be available in Wuhan.

But Duplessis, who is originally from Espanola, Ont., said he is not looking to leave.

Most people he knows are taking the situation in stride, although he said there is  “a certain resignation” and  “despair.” Duplessis and his family members take their temperatures every morning at breakfast.

More restrictions have been placed on cars and some people are worried those might affect day-to-day activities such as getting groceries, he said.

From his 28th-floor balcony, Duplessis said he could see the highway, usually buzzing with activity, was empty.

“The IKEA mall across the street is empty, which is too bad. There’s great lunches there,” he said.

“An IKEA meatball lunch would be nice right now.”

What travellers need to know about the coronavirus

With a highly visible minority of travellers sporting surgical masks, and many airline and security personnel doing likewise, the scene at Toronto Pearson International Airport recalls the early days of the 2003 SARS outbreak.

This despite Government of Canada assurances that as of Jan. 27, “the overall risk of the novel coronavirus to Canadian travellers and to Canada remains low.”

The profusion of masks has much to do with memories of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), says Frederic Dimanche, director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University in Toronto. The outbreak, which infected 257 people in Ontario, “had a significant impact not just on the travel industry, but also on people’s minds. Now, with the coronavirus, here’s another threat coming from another viral respiratory disease originating in China. People see it as the same story happening again.”

The good news, Dimanche adds, is that the travel industry is reacting much more quickly and efficiently than it did in 2003. “They’ve learned from what happened and are taking measures from the very beginning to make people feel more comfortable.”

MAJOR PLAYERS OFFERING REFUNDS

A wide range of airlines, hotel chains and tour operators have announced “goodwill policies” that allow travellers to cancel or change bookings related to China free of charge.

On Jan. 26, Air Canada announced that passengers who recently booked travel to Beijing Capital International Airport, Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Wuhan Tianhe International Airport can change their flights to another date or destination free of charge (subject to date restrictions and availability). This followed similar moves by other major carriers such as Air China, Cathay Pacific and Qantas Airways, all of which announced free refunds for journeys to and from mainland China. Several multinational hotel chains, including InterContinental Hotels and Hyatt Hotels, are also allowing free cancellations and date changes at hundreds of properties across China.

Canadian tour operators are following suit. On Jan. 24, many received an official notice from China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism requesting that they suspend services to China until further notice. China has also ordered all domestic agencies to suspend sales of domestic and international tours.

Toronto-based G Adventures, for its part, has cancelled all tours to China through Feb. 29, with travellers who have already booked having the option to postpone, transfer to an alternative tour or cancel and receive a full refund. “The safety and well-being of our travellers continues to be our top priority, and our local team will continue to monitor the situation and update travellers and agents on any changes to future departures,” spokesman Tim Chan said.

OTTAWA RECOMMENDS AVOIDING NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL

Given the safety and security risks associated with measures being taken by Chinese authorities to contain the virus – public transportation shutdowns, event cancellations and strict travel restrictions that could change quickly – the Government of Canada recommended that Canadians avoid non-essential travel to the central Chinese region of Hubei province as of Jan. 28. Likewise, Chinese authorities have asked the public to avoid all non-essential travel to and from the city of Wuhan.

As of Jan. 24, the World Health Organization advised that “measures to limit the risk of exportation or importation of the disease should be implemented, without unnecessary restrictions of international traffic.”

This balancing act “is all about risk management,” Dimanche says. “Nobody wants to be held accountable if the outbreak gets worse. After all, there’s a precedent for this.”

IF YOU GO

With the outbreak coinciding with the Lunar New Year, one of China’s busiest travel seasons, the risk of visitors getting sick increases, Dimanche points out, adding that the severe measures taken by Chinese authorities highlight the seriousness of the situation. “Travellers must take responsibility for their decisions to go to China by being informed about the situation as it evolves, and checking advisories from the Canadian and Chinese governments,” he says.

As part of its “avoid non-essential travel” recommendation, the federal government is highlighting health and travel precautions such as extra attentiveness to messages and instructions at airports, expecting increased health measures at airports throughout China, avoiding high-risk areas such as farms and live animal markets and signing up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service in case of emergencies.

CANCEL-FOR-ANY-REASON-INSURANCE ON THE UPSWING

Another sign of public skittishness over the virus – a recent uptick in cancel-for-any-reason-insurance bookings. According to Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com, average daily Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) bookings have “nearly doubled” since Jan. 22, with close to 60 per cent of purchasers listing their primary destination as China or Southeast Asia.

Standard trip-cancellation policies will not provide reimbursement to travellers who cancel owing to outbreak concerns or health alerts from authorities, Sandberg explains, adding that policies with an added CFAR upgrade will provide this coverage, subject to significant premium increases and various terms and conditions.

Dimanche, for his part, says travellers should base their decisions on the levels of risk they can tolerate. “Some of us are risk-takers and some of us or not. If you’re not comfortable with the level of risk, cancelling or rescheduling might make sense. If you are comfortable with the risks, you still have to understand that this is a public health issue that could affect millions of people all over the world. It’s not just about you and your trip.”

Source: The Globe and Mail

Is your credit card’s travel insurance enough?

The excerpted article is by MoneySense

At last, your highly anticipated vacation is around the corner. As you count off the days on your commute to work each morning, thoughts of anything going wrong while you’re away couldn’t be further from your mind. Besides, you’re pretty sure you’ve got travel health insurance through your credit card anyway, right?

Millions of Canadians have some travel health insurance coverage, either through a policy that comes with a premium credit card or an employer-sponsored health plan, says Will McAleer, executive director of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA). “Some of those are more than adequate for Canadians who travel this winter.”

The problem is that many of us aren’t clear on any of the policy details, which likely include restrictions based on length of stay, age, cost of treatment and any pre-existing conditions you may have. Often, those details aren’t that visible to the consumer, who may have only glanced at the marketing brochure that came with that card or workplace healthcare policy, says McAleer.

Many of these policies expire after age 64 and won’t cover you for a trip longer than 15 days. Or they can max out too soon, designed to pay for a drop-in clinic consult for a case of pink eye but not an emergency medical evacuation if you injure your spine while skiing.

In a recent survey, THIA found that only a little more than a quarter of respondents were clear about what’s covered by a travel policy they hold.

There are four “golden rules” of travel health insurance that Canadians should understand, says McAleer.

  1. Know your policy
    “Understand what your policy covers and what it doesn’t,” he says. Whether that means digging up the information that came with your credit card or workplace insurance, or understanding a new policy you’re planning to purchase, go over the fine print very carefully. Call the insurance company and get specifics if you have any questions.
  2. Know your trip
    Are you travelling as a snowbird, or are you going to go bungee jumping or scuba diving?” asks McAleer. You need to make sure your policy matches your trip and the risks you’re taking while you’re away. You’ll need more insurance for hiking the Inca Trail in Peru or scuba diving in Belize than you would for parking yourself on a beach for a week. The costs for emergency services outside of the country can be significant, particularly when you consider that 80 to 90% of Canadians vacation in the United States—“arguably the most expensive place for medical treatment on the planet,” says McAleer. “A code blue emergency—so, a life-saving emergency—not only could it cost you $10,000 a day, it could cost you $10,000 an hour, depending on how serious the emergency is.”
  3. Know your rights and responsibilities
    McAleer says consumers have a right to contact their insurer to ask for specifics about what’s covered, as well as to appeal if coverage gets denied. “But you’ve also got responsibilities,” he says. The first of those is to make sure you’re answering any medical questions correctly and accurately, “because if you don’t, [that] could lead to disappointment when you need it the least.” Barring a catastrophic situation where it’s simply not possible to do so, you also have a responsibility to contact your insurance provider, not your credit card company, before accessing medical services—otherwise, you may not be covered.
  4. Know your health
    If you’ve been to the doctor for anything beyond a regular checkup recently, you need to learn if those issues could be considered a dreaded “pre-existing condition” that your insurer will exclude from your coverage, says McAleer. If you do have something going on with your health, it doesn’t mean you’ve got to stay home, says Sivan Tumarkin, an insurance and disability lawyer. The key is to get a policy that’s designed to account for whatever you’ve got going on with your health. Manulife, for example, offers travel insurance that’s tailored to whatever pre-existing conditions the customer may have, he says. Note that it’s critical not to cut corners when describing any health issues you have.

“If you make a claim, they’ll pore through your records to find any arguments you’ve breached the policy,” he says.

Tumarkin advises against getting insurance from a travel agent. Because they’re not brokers, they can’t advise you in detail on what a policy will cover. Instead, go to a reputable insurance broker. These pros sell policies from a variety of insurance companies and will help you understand the options. If your employer or credit card coverage isn’t sufficient, a broker can find you a policy that will top you up should you need anything more than the basic drop-in clinic visit.

Vacation costs add up, so it can be tempting to go for a bargain-priced policy offered by your travel agent and travel website.

“Most people will go for whatever is cheapest, but there’s a reason why it’s priced that way,” says Tumarkin.

Top 5 Travel Accessories on the Planet, According to FlightHub & JustFly

Top 5 Travel Accessories on the Planet, According to FlightHub & JustFly

Are you a frequent flyer? Do you plan one fabulous vacation a year? Or are you planning the trip of a lifetime? No matter how often you fly, here are some handy gadgets suggested by FlightHub and JustFly that you need to know about, to make things as easy as possible when you’re on the go.

1. Electronic luggage scale.

There are a lot more rules, restrictions and fees when it comes to baggage these days. This little gadget is a good way to make sure you don’t get carried away when packing your carry-on, or the luggage you’re planning to check. Thanks to this lightweight little luggage scale you won’t get hit with unexpected baggage fees. Plus, it’s so compact you can slip it in your suitcase or purse and be ready to re-weigh before you go home, to make sure the shopping sprees and souvenirs don’t add up to extra baggage fees.

2. Ultralight packing cube.

First suitcases got wheels. So smart. Then came these. They’re a super-smart way to keep your clothes and accessories neat and organized. They’re made with lightweight material and zippers with semi-rigid frames that hold their shape to make packing and unpacking a breeze. Look for mesh tops for ventilation and visibility which are also key for travelling simplicity.

3. Collapsible water bottle.

With so many prices and designs to choose from, you’ll find the one for you online in no time. They don’t shatter, leak or dent. Look for one that’s made of non-toxic materials and is certified BPA free. The foldability and durability make it ideal for travel, so you can stay hydrated when you’re flying high.

4. Silk travel pillow

Who hasn’t seen this story online lately? A supermodel awakes on a long overnight flight with not a hair out of place, and no sleep-wrinkles to be found anywhere on her face. The haggard traveller next to her, so amazed at her perfect appearance, just had to ask her how she slept so well and woke up looking like new. The model’s response probably included lots of water (of course), and a sleep eye mask to block out light. But her secret was a silk pillow she always packs. Famous people like Cindy Crawford say that silk pillowcases are great for their hair and skin. If silk is good enough for her, it’s good enough for us! Look for a silk travel pillow online, anytime. Starting at just $29.00 it’s worth its weight in pure silk.

5. The cheapest airfare and best deal in town, to get out of town.

So many gadgets are designed to make flying as easy as possible. But making travelling easier starts with getting a great price on your flight. FlightHub and JustFly are online travel agencies that understand this to the core. They understand that “easy” makes people “happy”. FlightHub, and their American brand JustFly, strive to do 3 things very well; offer the best flight options, provide the lowest priced airfare, and deliver the easiest customer experience.

“Over 5 million people book with FlightHub and JustFly every year,” states Matt Keezer. “Our reviews show that our happy repeat customers keep coming back for our simpler process, cheaper prices, and better itineraries.” Happy flying!

SOURCE FlightHub

Related Links

http://support.flighthub.ca/

There are plenty of things that can go wrong on vacation if you don’t have travel insurance

The excerpted article was written by Ross McLaughlin | CTV News Vancouver

When a Kitchener, Ontario man was admitted to the hospital in December in Thailand and diagnosed with a brain tumor, his travel insurance company denied coverage to fly him home. Why? Because he had seen a doctor about a headache a month earlier thinking he was suffering from the flu.  Following media coverage the company rescinded and paid for the emergency evacuation.

When a man from Mississauga had a heart attack in Las Vegas in July, his travel insurance refused coverage because he’d been on oxygen and was unstable two months prior to the trip. Although not necessarily obligated, the insurance company flew him home after he received a pacemaker. He’s now stuck with a Las Vegas hospital for $877,000.

These stories are not uncommon but that doesn’t mean you should avoid buying travel insurance. It’s better to have it than not have any protection at all.

“Over 95 per cent of all the claims that get submitted are paid,” said Will McAleer, past president of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada.

Yet, according to a survey by THiA, many Canadians leave home without travel insurance; 45 per cent mistakenly believe that they’ll be covered by their provincial health plan while 25 per cent who do buy travel insurance don’t understand it.

“A lot of people go and get insurance thinking they’re covered for everything, don’t know what they have and then are surprised to find out they aren’t covered for certain things,” said Flight Centre’s Allison Wallace.

That’s why you need to read your travel insurance policy carefully and ask a lot of questions before buying it.

Some possible exclusions

  •  High-risk activities like parasailing and downhill skiing
  •  Pre-existing conditions
  •  Alcohol consumption prior to being injured.

“A lot of insurance companies have clauses that will exempt them if they’re under the influence and that could be one drink,” said Wallace.

The THiA survey showed 20 per cent admitted to having more than five drinks in two hours while on vacation.

“We we’re surprised to see that many Canadians have participated in binge drinking as well,” said McAleer.

And you should always check travel advisories before you booking your trip and buying travel insurance; if there’s a travel advisory in place that could void your insurance.

If you’re going to be taking part in high risk activity like scuba diving you might have to shop around for supplemental insurance to make sure you’re covered.

Travel Insurance checklist

  •  Understand your policy – read all the fine print.
  •  Know your health – talk to your doctor if you have questions.
  •  Know your trip – where are you going, how long and what types of activities will you participate in?
  •  Know your rights – the travel insurance industry adopted The Bill of Rights and Responsibilities for travel insurance.
Many credit cards offer travel insurance, but not all policies are created equal

Many credit cards offer travel insurance, but not all policies are created equal

The excerpted article was written by

At last, your highly anticipated vacation is around the corner. As you count off the days on your commute to work each morning, thoughts of anything going wrong while you’re away couldn’t be further from your mind. Besides, you’re pretty sure you’ve got travel health insurance through your credit card anyway, right?

Millions of Canadians have some travel health insurance coverage, either through a policy that comes with a premium credit card or an employer-sponsored health plan, says Will McAleer, executive director of the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA). “Some of those are more than adequate for Canadians who travel this winter.”

The problem is that many of us aren’t clear on any of the policy details, which likely include restrictions based on length of stay, age, cost of treatment and any pre-existing conditions you may have. Often, those details aren’t that visible to the consumer, who may have only glanced at the marketing brochure that came with that card or workplace healthcare policy, says McAleer.

Many of these policies expire after age 64 and won’t cover you for a trip longer than 15 days. Or they can max out too soon, designed to pay for a drop-in clinic consult for a case of pink eye but not an emergency medical evacuation if you injure your spine while skiing.

In a recent survey, THIA found that only a little more than a quarter of respondents were clear about what’s covered by a travel policy they hold.

There are four “golden rules” of travel health insurance that Canadians should understand, says McAleer.

  1. Know your policy
    “Understand what your policy covers and what it doesn’t,” he says. Whether that means digging up the information that came with your credit card or workplace insurance, or understanding a new policy you’re planning to purchase, go over the fine print very carefully. Call the insurance company and get specifics if you have any questions.
  2. Know your trip
    Are you travelling as a snowbird, or are you going to go bungee jumping or scuba diving?” asks McAleer. You need to make sure your policy matches your trip and the risks you’re taking while you’re away. You’ll need more insurance for hiking the Inca Trail in Peru or scuba diving in Belize than you would for parking yourself on a beach for a week. The costs for emergency services outside of the country can be significant, particularly when you consider that 80 to 90% of Canadians vacation in the United States—“arguably the most expensive place for medical treatment on the planet,” says McAleer. “A code blue emergency—so, a life-saving emergency—not only could it cost you $10,000 a day, it could cost you $10,000 an hour, depending on how serious the emergency is.”
  3. Know your rights and responsibilities
    McAleer says consumers have a right to contact their insurer to ask for specifics about what’s covered, as well as to appeal if coverage gets denied. “But you’ve also got responsibilities,” he says. The first of those is to make sure you’re answering any medical questions correctly and accurately, “because if you don’t, [that] could lead to disappointment when you need it the least.” Barring a catastrophic situation where it’s simply not possible to do so, you also have a responsibility to contact your insurance provider, not your credit card company, before accessing medical services—otherwise, you may not be covered.
  4. Know your health
    If you’ve been to the doctor for anything beyond a regular checkup recently, you need to learn if those issues could be considered a dreaded “pre-existing condition” that your insurer will exclude from your coverage, says McAleer. If you do have something going on with your health, it doesn’t mean you’ve got to stay home, says Sivan Tumarkin, an insurance and disability lawyer. The key is to get a policy that’s designed to account for whatever you’ve got going on with your health. Manulife, for example, offers travel insurance that’s tailored to whatever pre-existing conditions the customer may have, he says. Note that it’s critical not to cut corners when describing any health issues you have.

“If you make a claim, they’ll pore through your records to find any arguments you’ve breached the policy,” he says.

Tumarkin advises against getting insurance from a travel agent. Because they’re not brokers, they can’t advise you in detail on what a policy will cover. Instead, go to a reputable insurance broker. These pros sell policies from a variety of insurance companies and will help you understand the options. If your employer or credit card coverage isn’t sufficient, a broker can find you a policy that will top you up should you need anything more than the basic drop-in clinic visit.

Vacation costs add up, so it can be tempting to go for a bargain-priced policy offered by your travel agent and travel website.

“Most people will go for whatever is cheapest, but there’s a reason why it’s priced that way,” says Tumarkin.

Source: MoneySense

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