What Should I Do? COVID-19, Travel Insurance, And You


These are extraordinary times. The COVID-19 pandemic has Canadian travellers in a state of flux.

The Canadian government is temporarily closing the Canadian-U.S. border to all non-essential travel, and it put out a global non-essential travel advisory recommending all Canadians avoiding travelling abroad for the time being.

That leaves many of us with questions about travelling and travel insurance – especially Canadians who are in another country at the moment. What should we do? What should we not do?

Whether you are travelling or have plans to travel in the future, make sure you understand how COVID-19 may affect your travel insurance policy, as well as how to protect yourself and your loved ones.

What Is COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 is the most recently discovered variation of coronavirus, which are a family of viruses that may cause people to become ill. A coronavirus can result in a broad range of illnesses from the common cold to more serious diseases.

Who Is at Risk of Getting COVID-19?

Anyone may contract COVID-19 if they are exposed to it. Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, cancer, or diabetes may be at greater risk of developing a severe illness if they are infected.

How Can I Reduce the Risk of a COVID-19 Infection?

There are many ways you can slow the spread of infection and protect yourself:

  • Use a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your arm and not your hands
  • Dispose of any tissues you use afterward immediately
  • Steer clear of crowds and people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth since viruses on your hands can enter your body this way
  • Frequently use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after washing your hands with soap and water
  • Reduce the amount of contact you have with older adults and people with serious health conditions like cancer

How Do I Know If I Have COVID-19?

If you become infected with COVID-19, you may have little or no symptoms. It can be hard to tell because COVID-19 symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear, and they are similar to those of the common cold or flu. This Canadian government website provides details about COVID-19 symptoms and treatment.

How Contagious Is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is highly contagious. It can spread from person to person through the air if someone who is infected coughs or sneezes near you, or if you touch a surface or object after an infected person has. The federal government encourages Canadians to keep a physical distance from others through social distancing, and to embrace good hygiene practices such as washing your hands with soap and water frequently to help reduce the spread of the illness.

What Should I Do If I’m Outside of Canada?

Get back home to Canada as soon as you can. But if you have COVID-19 symptoms, the federal government urges you to stay where you are for 14 days and self-isolate. If you do have COVID-19 symptoms and are outside of Canada, contact the Canadian embassy or consulate in the country where you are and ask for their help. Also, get in touch with your travel insurance provider and find out what your options are as per your travel policy.

Can an Ontario Resident Who Is Returning Home Get OHIP Coverage Right Away?

Yes. Usually, Ontario residents who are outside of Canada for more than seven months face a three-month waiting period before they can re-apply for Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) coverage when they return. However, because of COVID-19, the Ontario government is waiving the waiting period, so you will have OHIP coverage immediately.

Does My Travel Policy Cover Me if I Get Sick Outside of Canada But It’s Not COVID-19?

Contact your insurance provider to be sure about what you do have coverage for and what you do not. In general, if you have a travel insurance policy that includes emergency medical coverage and suffer an injury or illness that is unrelated to COVID-19, you may be covered. It all comes down to the terms and conditions of your policy.

I Am in Another Country and Have COVID-19 Symptoms, But My Travel Insurance Will Not Cover My Expenses. What Should I Do?

You may be able to get help from the Canadian government in this instance. Through the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad, Canadians can apply for a repayable loan of up to $5,000. To apply for the program, email the federal government at [email protected]

Will My Travel Insurance Policy Cover Me for My Upcoming Trip?

Your best bet is to contact your insurance provider and ask how COVID-19 may impact your travel insurance policy. Ask questions like:

  • Can I cancel my trip and activate my policy’s trip cancellation coverage if I get sick before my departure date?
  • Will my policy’s emergency medical coverage provide me with funds if I become ill or are quarantined while abroad? How much coverage does the policy provide?
  • Since the federal government issued a global non-essential travel advisory, can I activate my policy’s trip cancellation coverage if I wish?
  • After the government lifts its non-essential travel advisory for my destination at a later date, will my policy still cover me for any type of emergency medical care I may need while outside of Canada?

Also, check with the airline or cruise line you booked with to find out if they will allow you to cancel your trip and get a refund if you choose to cancel your plans.

How Can I Find Out if the Canadian Government Issues a Travel Advisory for My Destination?

Visit the federal government’s website for all travel advisories, and keep in touch with your airline or tour operator for any up-to-date information they can share.

Are People from Other Countries with Visitors to Canada Travel Insurance Still Covered?

In general, if you purchased a visitors to Canada insurance policy before March 16, you might still be covered for COVID-19 or other conditions. Check with your insurance provider.

If you purchased a visitors to Canada insurance policy on or after March 16 (but before arriving in Canada), the coverage might still apply provided you meet the Canadian government’s criteria to enter the country.

If you are already in Canada, and unless a different company insured you in the previous 30 days, you may also be covered as per the terms and conditions of the policy. Contact your insurance provider to be sure.

Can I Extend My Visitors to Canada Insurance Policy?

Many insurers may allow you to extend your existing coverage. Check with your insurer or broker to find out what your options are. If you can get an extension on your existing policy, make sure you know what the terms, conditions, and exclusion are. For instance, if you leave Canada and enter the U.S., will your policy cover you if you contract COVID-19 while in the U.S.? It might not. So, be sure to ask your insurer to explain the policy details to you.