Some countries plan to welcome tourists next month, but your travel insurance may not cover COVID-19

Wondering when Canadians can start travelling again? Here’s what you need to know

Sophia Harris · CBC News

For many Canadians, their most exciting adventure over the past couple of months has been a weekly trip to the grocery store.

But now that provinces are easing COVID-19 restrictions, some people may be contemplating travel abroad.

Here’s what you need to know about travelling outside Canada while COVID-19 still lingers in our lives.

Can I travel now?

Yes, but with a lot of conditions to consider.

On March 13, the federal government issued an advisory against all non-essential international travel, to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The advisory remains in effect until further notice.

Despite the advisory, Canadians can still travel abroad. However, they may struggle to find flights and their travel insurance likely won’t cover their medical bills if they fall ill with COVID-19.

International travellers will also have to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.

The Canada-U.S. border remains closed to tourists crossing by land until June 21. And that date could be extended if the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. — now totalling more than 1.6 million — remains a concern.

Where can I go?

Due to closed borders and a fear of flying during the pandemic, airlines have slashed their routes.

WestJet has grounded all transborder and international routes until June 25. Air Transat and Sunwing have stopped flying altogether until June 30 and June 25, respectively.

Air Canada is currently flying at about five per cent of its capacity. On Friday, the airline announced an updated summer schedule that offers flights to 97 destinations including Rome, Athens and locations in the Caribbean.

Once travel restrictions are lifted, airlines will start adding more routes, said Allison Wallace, spokesperson for the travel agency Flight Centre.

But she warns it could take up to two years for carriers to resume normal operations.

“The airlines aren’t going to come back and go to 100 per cent,” she said. “There’s sort of a general agreement that international travel will start to come back around 20 per cent by the fall — like September — and then it’ll grow from there.”

As for possible travel destinations, IcelandMexico and some Caribbean countries such as Aruba and St. Lucia plan to start welcoming back tourists in June. Greece plans to reopen in July.

But travellers may face stiff entry requirements. For example, St. Lucia and Iceland will require that visitors get a COVID-19 test before flying and provide proof upon arrival that they’re virus-free. If travellers to Iceland can’t get a test beforehand, the country plans to test them when they arrive.

Airline analyst and McGill University Prof. Karl Moore is set to fly to Iceland in August to teach for a couple of days at Reykjavík University.

But if he can’t get tested in Canada beforehand, Moore is unsure he’ll take the trip. That’s because, if he tests positive for COVID-19 upon arrival, he’ll have to foot the bill for a 14-day quarantine in a Reykjavik hotel. Travellers suffering from COVID-19 can’t fly back to Canada until they recover.

“It’s going to cost me thousands of dollars to be quarantined,” said Moore. “I love Reykjavik, but I may end up teaching [instead] on Zoom.”

What about travel insurance?

Insurance broker Martin Firestone believes that when Canada lifts its advisory against international travel, travel insurance providers may continue to exclude coverage for COVID-19-related illnesses — until there’s a vaccine.

“A person who ends up on a ventilator in the U.S., it could be hundreds of thousands of dollars, so [insurance providers] are in no position to take that risk,” said Firestone, president of Travel Secure in Toronto.

READ MORE HERE AT CBC News

 

Most actively traded companies on the TSX

Most actively traded companies on the TSX

TORONTO _ Some of the most active companies traded Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange:

Toronto Stock Exchange (12,861.93, down 516.82 points.)

TC Energy Corp. (TSX:TRP). Down $4.69, or 7.5 per cent, to $57.86 on 15.1 million shares.

Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU). Energy. Down 27 cents, or 1.2 per cent, to $22.19 on 14.75 million shares.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (TSX:CNQ). Energy. Down 77 cents, or four per cent, to $18.48 on 12.9 million shares.

Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). Industrials. Down 2.5 cents, or 5.49 per cent, to 43 cents on 12.1 million shares.

Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE). Energy. Down 12 cents, or 4.23 per cent, to $2.72 on 11.3 million shares.

Aurora Cannabis Inc. (TSX:ACB). Health care. Down 10 cents, or 7.94 per cent, to $1.16 on 10.7 million shares.

Companies in the news:

Dollarama Inc. (TSX:DOL). Down 12 cents to $38.92. Dollarama Inc. declined to provide its annual financial guidance for its 2021 financial year due to COVID-19 pandemic, but said it expects to see some negative impacts. Dollarama anticipates same-store sales to be negative for the rest of the current first quarter thanks to the reduced traffic and mall closures beyond the retailer’s control. Dollarama earned $178.7 million in the fourth quarter, up from $171.0 million in the same period a year earlier.

Cineplex Inc. (TSX:CGX). Up 21 cents or 1.8 per cent to $11.91. Canada’s largest movie exhibitor will keep its doors closed nationwide into the foreseeable future amid the COVID-19 pandemic. After initially setting an April 2 timeline to consider reopening 165 theatres across the chain, a representative for Cineplex Inc. told The Canadian Press the company will instead turn to government and public health authorities for any further guidance on when it’s safe to reopen.

Sun Life Canada (TSX:SLF). Down $1.96 or 4.3 per cent to $43.31. When COVID-19 started spreading through Canada, the president of one of the country’s largest insurance companies was thinking about mothers who have to tote kids to a waiting room and keep them entertained for hours just to see a doctor. On Tuesday, Sun Life rolled out free access to Lumino Health Virtual Care, a platform that allows Canadians to connect with medical professionals digitally by giving them the ability to find and book an appointment with a psychologist, physiotherapist or other paramedical providers.

Uni-Select Inc. (TSX:UNS). Down 52 cents or 10.2 per cent to $4.59. Uni-Select Inc. says approximately half of its employees are being furloughed and a third of its sites being temporarily closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The automotive parts and paint company has 6,000 employees in Canada, the U.S. and Britain. It says it remains in operation where appropriate and permitted and has reorganized to focus on essential services. Uni-Select says 28 per cent of its sites are operating on reduced hours while seven per cent are operating on a very limited basis.

Insurers are warning you many have to cover your own hospital costs if you ignore CDN travel advisories

Insurers are warning you many have to cover your own hospital costs if you ignore CDN travel advisories

Vancouver Sun | Randy Shore

If you are tempted to take advantage of a cheap flight to COVID-19 hot spots such as Italy or China, you could be paying your own hospital bills if you get sick.

Pacific Blue Cross is warning its clients that that will not be covered for medical expenses related to infectious disease if a travel advisory or health warning for your destination is issued by the Canadian government and publicized before your departure date.

The company advises members to check for government health advisories for their destination.

“If you have or want to purchase travel medical or trip protection insurance or if you are covered under a group travel medical plan, you should be aware of your coverage before you travel,” the company said in a statement.

Canada has issued Level 3 travel advisories for China, Iran and northern Italy to “avoid non-essential travel.” Travelling to a country under a Level 3 or 4 warning typically voids your coverage for medical expenses.

In practice, that means that your medical claims will be honoured as long as there is no Level 3 or 4 advisory for your destination on the effective date of your medical coverage, travel industry insiders say.

A Level 1 travel advisory means exercise normal security precautions, Level 2 advises a high degree of caution. Level 3 advises avoiding non-essential travel, while Level 4 advises Canadians to avoid all travel to the affected region.

Level 1 health notices have been issued for Singapore and Hong Kong, and Level 2 notices are in force for South Korea and Japan.

Confirm the exact terms of your health care and travel coverage with your insurer, as there is considerable variability among companies and policies are changing almost daily in response to the growing crisis.

Canada Life Financial “will continue to assess” claims related to COVID-19, including those that occur during travel to a country with a travel advisory warning.

The company has expedited disability claims related to COVID-19 and is also considering claims from people under quarantine at the direction of a physician, a company official said.

BCAA also will not provide trip cancellation or trip interruption coverage on claims related to COVID-19 on policies purchased after March 5. TuGo will not provide coverage for claims related to COVID-19 on policies purchased on or after March 4.

The Public Health Agency of Canada and Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, have also recommended that people “avoid all cruise ship travel.”

Canadians who take a cruise against that advice may not be able to return home on a government-organized repatriation flight, or may have to pay the cost of returning should they become ensnared in a quarantine, the agency said.

If the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is detected on your ship, you could be subject to quarantine aboard the ship or in a foreign country under local rules. Your access to consular services may also be limited by local authorities.

Ports in India, Malaysia, Doha, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates have banned cruise ships outright, while many other countries have banned passengers from China, Iran, Italy and Korea from disembarking.

The cruise warning is not a Level 3 advisory, so there are no insurance implications, yet. It’s effect has been devastating, nonetheless.

“That advisory is the single biggest blow to the industry since this virus became headline news,” said travel agent Claire Newell. “I was surprised because there are hundreds and hundreds of ships in regions that haven’t been affected.”

The onslaught of holiday cancellations has triggered an overhaul of the insurance products being offered to travellers, many of them temporary offers.

“A lot of package tour operators are offering worry-free clauses in their cancellation policies,” she said.  “The industry has been hit very hard and they are trying to spur bookings because people are afraid.”

However, the cancellation windows vary from 30 days before departure to as little as 48 hours. Most allow you to rebook free, but do not offer refunds.

Discounts of up to 75 per cent are available for people willing to book a cruise.

“That’s what is going to get people over their fear, a hell of a good deal,” she said, adding that more than 90 per cent of people who are booking a holiday also buy cancel-for-any-reason insurance.

The COVID-19 epidemic is fuelling demand for “self-driving” holidays and Canadian destinations such as Niagara and the Gaspé, as well as destinations such as Iceland, Scotland and South America, where only a handful of cases are confirmed.

“There is a lot of interest in Peru, which is a great bucket list destination,” said Newell.

Edmonton travel agents field calls, re-book and cancel trips over COVID-19

The excerpted article was written by  

Approximately 100 people working in tourism gathered Thursday in Edmonton for an industry conference that touched on the novel coronavirus and its impact on travel.

The coronavirus COVID-19 has reached every continent except for Antarctica and has upheaved the travel industry, disrupting flights, accommodations and tourist attractions around the world.

The conference included tour suppliers as well as independent travel agencies in the city, and some agents said they are busy fielding calls from concerned travelers.

Hidar Elmais, manager of Travel Gurus, said the agency was busy last month repatriating travellers who were stuck overseas in infected areas.

He said this month, the agency is working with travellers who are uncertain about booking a trip or mulling whether a trip should be cancelled.

Elmais said travel insurance is an important consideration, adding that if the federal government said Canadians should avoid non-essential travel to certain countries, travel insurance would kick in to offer a full refund for those looking to cancel or bring travellers who are already overseas back to Canada.

“Travel insurance can be purchased at any time. The problem is it has to be unforeseen. If you were to purchase travel insurance after Canada had declared non-essential travel to that country, you won’t be covered because it was foreseen. The earlier you purchase travel insurance, the better,” Elmais said.

He said that the most important period of time to purchase extra coverage, such as cancel for any reason coverage, is within the first 72 hours of booking a trip.

Ashish Sanghrajka, president of Big Five Tours and Expeditions, said there has been a roughly 10 to 20 per cent drop in business to certain countries. He said that business to Asia has come to a standstill because of the virus.

“Fear is real. People look at this and say, ‘What do I do?’ There’s a lot of questions,” he said.

However, Sanghrajka said the industry has experience in dealing with major disruptions, citing the SARS epidemic as well as concerns over Ebola.

He said travellers have asked to postpone their trips by a year or have asked to re-book in different parts of the world, such as Africa and Latin America.

He said that it is important for travellers to understand their travel insurance and its limitations.

“This is what will happen. Your deposit does become non-refundable because of this, this and this. Understanding all of that. Much like when you’re buying a car, much like when you’re investing in a portfolio,” he said.

Leah Wood of Peace River has been planning a family trip to England and Scotland since last year but the coronavirus prompted her family to re-think their plans.

“The rate of spread. The videos I was seeing out of China. It just was really concerning and now it seems to be spreading – not just in China, everywhere else. I just didn’t want to put my family at risk,” Wood said.

Wood said her family intended to book this month but has decided to postpone travel overseas until the risk of the virus lessens. They could explore Canada instead, she said.

“We’ve seen a lot of people stuck on cruise ships, people stuck at hotels. I did not want to be quarantined to an airplane or another country where I’m not from there and I don’t have family,” Wood said.

“It broke my heart. [But] the safety of my four kids and my family is more important than just a vacation.”

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.

Canadian Fire Crews Are Now Fighting the Australia Fires, Returning a Favour

Climate change means emergency responders need specialized, updated training according to wildfire expert

The excerpted article was written by Anne Gaviola | Vice.com

According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC), eight specialists left for Victoria Monday night and another 21 arrived in New South Wales—the area hardest-hit—this weekend. Each round of deployments ranges from 31 to 38 days. A total of 95 Canadians are scheduled to help crews in Australia’s Rural Fire Service, which are mostly volunteers who have been stretched by bush fires fuelled by the country’s longest and driest year ever recorded.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry spokesperson Adrienne South said in an email, “This is the first time a multi-province Canadian crew is going to Australia.”

Even though Canada hasn’t dealt with bushfires as deadly as Australia’s, Canadian wildfire experts say our experience is valuable for fighting the fires now, and also for dealing with the aftermath.

Twenty-five people have been killed as well as an estimated 480 million animals. Millions of acres have been destroyed in fires that have been raging since September and their summer has only just begun. The Insurance Council of Australia estimated that insurance claims have already reached $485 million.

According to wildfire researcher Mike Flannigan, the types of blazes they’ll be dealing with are similar to very large, high-intensity fires that Canadians have seen recently, and more frequently, in British Columbia and Alberta. “These are erratic, hard to predict and dangerous. It has climate change fingerprints all over it,” said Flannigan.

The 2016 blaze in Fort McMurray, Alberta, brought an estimated $9 billion in damages and was the costliest disaster in Canadian history. The historic wildfire seasons of 2017 and 2018 in British Columbia also saw large-scale devastation, which Australian crews helped battle. The two countries have a history of helping each other out and it helps that we have opposite seasons, though fire seasons in both countries have gotten longer in recent years.

The specialists from Canada won’t be frontline firefighters—Australia hasn’t asked us to send those, at least not yet. We’ve sent managers and people behind the scenes in charge of logistics, strategy, and tracking equipment and planes. There’s a lot more to fire response than putting out blazes and Canadian expertise can play an important role in dealing with the humans and the trauma that comes with this kind of extreme destruction.

READ MORE HERE: Canadian Fire Crews Are Now Fighting the Australia Fires, Returning a Favour

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