Visiting a destination where there are confirmed cases of coronavirus (updated)

Wednesday, Feb 5, 2020

Here's some important information about overseas travelling in light of the coronavirus for travel insurance plans individually purchased from Pacific Blue Cross.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was first reported from Wuhan, China on December 31, 2019. As the virus spreads to more countries and regions around the world, it’s important that you are informed about your health, safety, and travel coverage. If you’re travelling or planning to, here is important information you should know:

  • On January 20, 2020 the Canadian government issued a travel advisory to avoid all travel to the province of Hubei (including the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang, and Ezhou).
  • While the risks for Canadians at home are considered low, the government of Canada recommends you avoid non-essential travel to various regions and countries around the world.
  • Travel advice and advisories by the Canadian government show you the overall risk level for a country or territory based on an assessment of the nationwide safety and security situation. Please understand the four possible risk levels before your trip.
  • The Canadian government recommends you should buy the best travel insurance you can afford if you’re travelling outside Canada. However, you should be aware that Pacific Blue Cross Travel Insurance does not cover you when a government advisory is “Avoid Non-Essential Travel” or “Avoid All Travel” to the area. This aligns with industry standards.

To ensure safe, healthy travels please visit the Travel Advice and Advisories issued by the Canadian government for specific destinations around the world.

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause a wide variety of health problems, ranging from a simple cold to much more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia, kidney failure, or gastrointestinal disease.

People with weakened immune systems—the elderly, young children, and those suffering from chronic illnesses—are at greater risk of developing complications if they become infected with a coronavirus.

What are the symptoms of a coronavirus illness?

Symptoms of infection often resemble those of the common cold. Examples include:

  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Cough accompanied by a sore throat
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • General feeling of weakness

Symptoms vary in seriousness depending on the health of the person infected and can worsen unexpectedly. That’s why you must be very careful if you visit a region where a coronavirus has been detected, especially if you have a weakened immune system.

For more information about coronaviruses, see the Canadian government website.

What to do if you get sick while travelling

If you have one or more of the above symptoms, start by contacting our medical assistance service, CanAssistance.  They can be reached by calling collect to 1-604-419-4487.

CanAssistance will assess the symptoms you describe and direct you as needed to a hospital or clinic for the appropriate care. Depending on your situation and needs, they may also:

  • Provide simultaneous interpretation to help you communicate with health care personnel
  • Advance funds to a service provider if you are required to pay for care up front
  • Plan emergency repatriation to your home province if you are hospitalized
  • Monitor your case closely until you’ve recovered

During your consultation, inform the physician if you have visited any high-risk areas (a farm, a public market, etc.) or been in contact with any animals or persons who showed symptoms associated with coronavirus.

Does my travel insurance cover me for emergency medical care if I visit a country where a coronavirus has been detected?

Yes and no.

Your travel insurance covers the type of emergency medical care you might need for a coronavirus infection, but  it is very important to note that you are not covered for expenses incurred for a medical condition resulting from an infectious disease or illness for which there is a travel advisory or health warning by the Canadian government and published or broadcast in the media prior to the effective date of your policy.

If you have travel insurance provided by your employer through your extended health plan, be sure to check your benefits and coverage limitations before you travel.

Also, if you are sick before your departure, that illness may not be covered by your insurance policy. If you develop symptoms associated with a coronavirus before your vacation, it may be wiser to avoid travelling altogether. For more information, read the clauses about preexisting conditions in your insurance policy closely or contact your insurer.

Am I covered by trip cancellation or interruption insurance?

Yes, as long as you purchased it before the Canadian government issued an advisory to “avoid all travel” or “avoid non-essential travel” to your destination.

That’s why we recommend purchasing trip cancellation or interruption insurance as soon as you plan a vacation abroad. That way if an advisory against all travel or non-essential travel is issued after you purchase your plan and you decide to cancel or return from your trip earlier, you can be reimbursed for all prepaid non-refundable travel expenses covered under your plan.

If your plan includes both trip cancellation/interruption and emergency medical, you are not covered for expenses incurred for a medical condition resulting from an infectious disease or illness for which there is a travel advisory or health warning by the Canadian government and published or broadcast in the media prior to the effective date of your policy.

You would be covered for trip interruption if the advisory or an illness causes you to change your original travel plans to return home, if you are within the travel advisory zone when the advisory is announced by the Canadian government.

To monitor the current travel advisories issued by the Canadian government, visit their Travel Advice and Advisories page.

What happens if I am quarantined?

A quarantine might happen to an individual who is ill or who has been exposed to someone who is ill, or it may be mandated by geographic region regardless of exposure to an ill person. Quarantines for coronavirus are not restricted to China; many countries are currently imposing quarantine restrictions.

If you or a travelling companion are quarantined as a result of the coronavirus while you are travelling outside of British Columbia, and your return home is delayed as a result, an exception has been made to the way we provide benefits to assist with commercial accommodation and meals. These benefits may be reduced by any benefits or compensation that you receive from the country of quarantine, or the Government of Canada. To see if you qualify, please confirm with our Medi-Assist team collect at 604-419-4487.

If your travel plan is due to expire while your quarantine is in effect, you must notify us in order to extend your travel dates.  For extensions, please call the PBC call centre collect at 604-419-2000 or email us at inhealth@pac.bluecross.ca before your expiry date.

Remember, as with any other medical incident, you are obligated to call Medi-Assist as soon as possible to report your quarantine so that we can support you through the process.

We recommend that all travelling Canadians sign up with Registration of Canadians Abroad  to stay connected with the Government of Canada to receive the most up-to-date information on any emergencies abroad or at home.

Prevention is the best medicine!

During your entire vacation, it is important to follow certain rules of hygiene and be careful to minimize your risks of becoming infected or contagious. Here are the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the Canadian government:

  1. Wash your hands regularly with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. It is always good to have alcohol-based sanitizer available in case you do not have access to running water. Never touch your eyes, mouth, or nose before washing your hands.
  2. Check the food that you eat. Make sure any meat or chicken products you eat are thoroughly cooked and have not expired. Take the necessary precautions to avoid any form of cross-contamination when you cook raw meat and wash your hands often.
  3. Be careful about where you go during your stay. If you are staying in a country on the advisory list, avoid busy areas or areas presenting an increased risk of contamination, such as farms or animal markets. Avoid all contact with wild or farm animals, living or dead, as well as any surfaces that could be contaminated with their feces or body fluids.
  4. Limit or avoid close contact with sick people who show symptoms such as cough, fever, or difficulty breathing. If one of your travel companions develops these symptoms, immediately call the medical assistance service for help. If you are taking care of a sick person, wash your hands frequently.
  5. Minimize the risks of spreading the virus. When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose fully with a tissue, your sleeve, or the crook of your elbow. If you use a tissue, dispose of it properly and then wash your hands.
  6. Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you get sick during or after your trip, avoid all contact with others and seek medical assistance immediately.

Safe travels

Stay informed, be prepared, and take precautions: these are the three best ways to ensure you stay safe during your vacation. As soon as you start making your travel plans, check regularly for updates on the specifics of the country you will be visiting.

The Canadian government’s Travel and Tourism page is an excellent resource for anyone planning to travel abroad. There you’ll find the government’s official recommendations for safety measures and precautions to take before and during your stay, country by country.

 

 Sources

 World Health OrganizationGovernment of Canada