TORONTO – Rising vaccination rates and a gradual relaxation of international travel restrictions could lead some Canadians to dream of their exotic summer vacation long written off as a lost cause.
However, with many restrictions still in place, difficult access to certain insurance policies, and the question of traveling with unvaccinated children, there are a few things to consider before spending money on airline tickets in 2021.
WHERE CAN YOU GO
Canada continues to introduce a Level 3 Travel Health Advisor to “avoid all non-essential travel outside Canada”.
However, the federal government signaled it was removing a major travel hurdle on June 9 when it announced that fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents could travel outside the country without quarantine, possibly by early July, upon their return.
The move came when Germany said it was removing Canada from its travel risk list, meaning Canadians can only travel there with a negative test result, and Air Canada announced that it will add flights to Rome next month that travelers with negative results Enable tests to avoid quarantine on arrival.
While these are all positive signs for would-be travelers, the pandemic is still ongoing and all rules could change or roll back, says Richard Vanderlubbe, president of Tripcentral.ca.
“What exists today may not exist in a week or if you are traveling or in the middle of your journey,” he told CTVNews.ca on Friday. “There are some relaxed conditions for hotel quarantines and home quarantines, but there is still PCR testing, there are still all kinds of provincial-level restrictions and where you travel can change.”
Vanderlubbe said he has seen little demand for summer travel bookings so far, with an emphasis on travel next winter and beyond.
“International trips are generally written off. The only thing that happens now is questions about Christmas travel, ”he said. “This summer we will be lucky if we can go to the USA interprovincially and still alone”
While Germany and Italy are starting to reopen, there is currently a hodgepodge of different rules in Europe. Technically, there is an EU travel ban for Canadian tourists as Canada is not yet on the EU’s “green list” of safe countries. However, the EU ban is essentially advice to Member States implementing their own policies. Spain, for example, recently opened its border to vaccinated travelers, while the UK allows Canadians but must quarantine them upon arrival.
The biggest international restriction for Canadians, of course, was the closed land border with the United States. Current restrictions expire on June 21, and some US politicians have called for the border to be opened by July 4th, but the main deterrent has been threats of a two-week quarantine on return to Canada.
“The hotel quarantine, which it has succeeded in doing, is absolutely dampening the demand for travel for those who do not have a lot of money,” said Vanderlubbe.
There are varying restrictions on inter-provincial travel within Canada, but there are also signs of easing as Ontario and Quebec announced on Monday that they would lift restrictions on non-essential travel between the two provinces on Wednesday. The restrictions between Ontario and Manitoba will also be lifted.
This will bring central Canada closer to the western provinces, which have few travel restrictions. Eastern Canada maintains tighter barriers as the maritime provinces require travelers to isolate themselves.
Flights to sun destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico were largely suspended in early January but resumed on a limited basis. Air Canada currently flies four times a week to Mexico City and will, for example, resume weekly flights to Montego Bay and Nassau in early July. Many sun destinations don’t require quarantine, but some require proof of a negative test or proof of health insurance
Air Canada offers limited flights to a few destinations in Asia, but most countries have major restrictions on travelers.
For those looking to cruise this summer, Canada continues to recommend avoiding all cruise ship travel for the time being, and warns that if an outbreak occurs on a ship, Canadians could be quarantined on board, followed by a 14- day quarantine on return to Canada. If a government-organized return flight is required, the traveler may be responsible for paying for it.
With around two-thirds of Canadians receiving at least one dose of vaccine and the focus now on the second dose, many Canadians will be fully vaccinated by the end of summer. However, it is still unclear what type of proof of vaccination Canadians will need to provide for both international and domestic travel.
“When I have my little Ontario Trillium symbol from my vaccination, what will a person with an EU passport think about it? What is the consistent evidence we need to provide? ”Said Vanderlubbe.
Interstate Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said last Wednesday that Ottawa was working with provincial leaders on a vaccination record document, but it may not be ready if the federal government allows Canadians to re-enter without full quarantine.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has so far been calm about the idea of vaccination cards for domestic use. However, there are signs that the provinces might enact their own rules, as Manitoba’s Prime Minister Brian Pallister said on June 8 that the province will issue vaccination cards to Manitobans two weeks after their second dose.
For families with children under 12, the subject of travel is more complicated, as vaccines for this age group are not expected to be approved until much later this year at the earliest.
While this would not stand in the way of travel to a country that allows unvaccinated travelers, the problem would be returning to Canada, where the quarantine waiver, as currently envisaged, would only apply to vaccinated travelers.
However, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said last week that families with children would not be separated on arrival, and a Hajdu spokesman Thierry Belair told CTVnews.ca that an option is being considered to quarantine families with unvaccinated children may be placed at home rather than in a hotel.
Given the significant uncertainty not only about the border restrictions but also about the course of the pandemic itself, Canadians willing to make summer travel plans are likely to want an exit strategy.
Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat have all discounted flight change and cancellation fees, but those who normally buy cancellation insurance are unlikely to be out of luck if their plans are derailed by COVID-19, says Martin Firestone, president of Travel Secure .
“Until the Level 3 travel warning, which is currently in force, is lifted in Canada…. All travel cancellation policies will not cover you if a pandemic is the cause of the cancellation, ”he told CTVNews.ca.
Travel health insurance, which covers COVID-19, was suspended by many companies in March 2020, but the industry has been offering insurance with limited pandemic coverage since then.
However, Firestone noted that Manulife Financial recently said it will now cover COVID-related claims of up to $ 5 million for fully vaccinated people, compared to $ 1 million for those who were not. The insurer also plans to offer fully vaccinated customers on cruises COVID-19 coverage once the government lifts its recommendation to avoid cruise travel.
“(The industry) is finally recognizing that fully vaccinated people should be better recognized from an insurance perspective in the future,” he said.
Like Vanderlubbe, however, Firestone sees a calm summer for international travel.
“I would say that summer 2021 travel is limited at best. [to] locally in Canada, ”he said.
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