EU Welcomes “Safe” Canadian Travellers. But Are You Ready?

Now that Canadians have earned a spot on the European Union’s safe travellers list, does that mean you are free and clear to book summer vacations or family visits wherever you like throughout the EU?

The short answer is Maybe, and there are many contingencies to consider before you set your sights on spending part of the summer in Britain, France, Germany, Finland, Italy or any of the other EU member countries.

The UK, for example has taken the biggest step forward in welcoming foreign visitors by dropping the 14-day quarantine requirement for those from “safe” countries (US is not included) as well for returning Brits.

Ironically, the biggest problem for Canadians planning overseas travel is not their destination country, but Ottawa, which requires (as of this date) that Canadians returning from abroad may still be subject to 14-day self-quarantines. Sort of “Welcome Home. But…”

Specifically, Travel Canada warns: “While some countries are partially opening their borders, we continue to advise against non-essential travel outside of Canada. We also continue to advise that you avoid all cruise ship travel until further notice.

“The governments of those destinations that have opened their borders to tourists could impose strict travel restrictions suddenly, should they experience an increase in cases of COVID-19. International transportation options could be reduced significantly, making it difficult for you to return to Canada. There are no plans to offer additional repatriation flights. Should you decide to travel despite our advisories, know that you might have to remain abroad longer than you expected.”

The government also notes that if you choose to travel despite these advisories: “your travel insurance may not cover your travel or medical expenses,” which is a huge risk factor in these uncertain times.

Travel policies vary: Know what you’re buying

At present, Canadian travel insurers do not have a unified policy re coverage of medical emergencies to countries affected by the pandemic. So if you’re contemplating foreign travel you need to do your due diligence (homework).

Some policies may cover non-COVID-related medical expenses in areas the government has warned against “non-essential” travel if you’re stricken with a sudden medical emergency such as, for example, appendicitis or gallbladder attack. Other policies may exclude coverage for any medical expenses (related or not to COVID) in “non-essential” travel zones. But none, at this point, will cover COVID-related medical services, as the coronavirus pandemic is a known event against which global travel warnings have been issued.

Clearly, you need to have a very clear understanding of what your policy covers or does not cover.

This is not a “fine print” issue. This is fundamental to your understanding of your own health coverage.

Your provincial health care will not bail you out on this point.

Canada’s exposure more modest than most.

What makes this situation so ironic is that Canada’s exposure to COVID-19, when measured by diagnosed positive cases and death rates, has been far more modest than many of the countries now opening up for tourism.

Example: as of July 5, 2020, Belgium has recorded 855 COVID-related deaths per/million inhabitants; UK 666; Spain 607; Italy 578; France 446 per million; while Canada has recorded a modest 236 COVID-related deaths per million inhabitants. Germany has shown the best record among European nations at 108 deaths per million, and the US has recorded 396 per million—considerably less than most European countries.

Again. The Canadian government is not forbidding you to travel abroad—or even to your second home in Florida or Arizona. But know the conditions, and when it comes to travel insurance, don’t rely on your long history of cross-border experiences. The world has changed and you need to discuss your travel insurance options with travel advisors you can trust to be up-to-date and knowledgeable.

© Copyright 2020 Milan Korcok. All rights reserved. Mkorcok@aol.com

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