Travel Insurance Coverage For Epidemics and Pandemics

Travel Insurance Coverage For Epidemics and Pandemics

Written by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated November 30, 2021

If there was ever a time to purchase travel medical insurance, it would be now.

The ongoing health crisis may have slowed travel nearly down to a halt, but people are still travelling, whether for essential purposes or not. But, will the average travel insurance plan include coverage for the very disease that has negatively affected the entire planet?

Until the current pandemic is under control worldwide, travelling outside of the country for any purpose should come with some form of travel insurance plan to adequately protect you. There’s no doubt that travel insurance is more important now than it has ever been. 

The question is, how are insurance providers handling the coverage of COVID-19-related medical issues?

How Is A Pandemic Different From An Epidemic? 

Some may confuse the terms “pandemic” and “epidemic” and use them interchangeably, but they are different.

An epidemic involves a disease that affects a large group of people within a specific population or region. A pandemic, on the other hand, involves a disease that impacts several countries or continents. In the case of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the entire world is affected. 

Find out if you should use a insurance broker or an insurance agent.

Does Travel Insurance Cover Epidemics And Pandemics?

You may have heard warnings from the government that travelling outside of Canada or your province may leave you without adequate medical coverage. Considering the fact that the COVID-19 case numbers continue to remain high in various parts of the world, there is always a chance that you could pick up the virus on your travels. 

Given the increased risk of contracting the disease abroad, some insurance companies are refusing to cover the cost of medical care required to treat COVID-19 to hedge against risk. 

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Luckily, not all insurance companies are leaving COVID-19 care out of their travel medical insurance plans. These days, you’ll find more insurance providers offering travel insurance for COVID-19 coverage, despite the Canadian government continually advising against non-essential travel. 

The following providers are currently offering travel insurance that includes COVID-19 coverage:

Manulife 

  • Provides emergency medical insurance for COVID-19-related medical conditions up to $1 million per insured person, or $5,000,000 if you’ve received all your COVID-19 vaccine shots before your travel date. 
  • Includes Trip Interruption Insurance in the event of quarantine up to $2,100 per insured person and up to $4,200 per family
  • Includes Trip Interruption Insurance for travel advisories issued by the government of Canada up to $500 per insured person

Medipac

  • Provides coverage up to $2 million, including coverage for COVID-19-related conditions

Certain airlines, including WestJet and Air Canada, are also including COVID-19 medical insurance when you book airfare through these carriers. 

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What To Look For When Buying Travel Insurance During A Pandemic Or Epidemic

Before buying a travel medical insurance policy for your travels, there are certain aspects you should consider:

Exceptions

While your travel insurance provider may advertise coverage for COVID-19, there may still be certain exceptions that could leave you ineligible for coverage. For example, certain destinations may be excluded from coverage, especially if the location is currently seeing rising case numbers and deaths, or is categorized as a place where all travel should be avoided. 

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Non-COVID Related Expenses

Does your travel medical insurance plan cover more than just issues related to COVID-19? Or is the plan exclusive to just COVID-19? Make sure the policy also includes other medical emergencies, aside from just those that are related to the virus. Otherwise, you may find yourself having to take out 2 separate policies to ensure adequate coverage. 

Travel Duration

Travel medical insurance policies usually have limits on the length of time that you will be out of the country. Make sure to find out what these limits are, as you don’t want to find yourself without coverage after a certain amount of time has elapsed. 

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Coverage Amount

Medical care can be extremely expensive, especially when it comes to hospital stays and surgeries. Make sure the coverage amount offered through your policy is adequate enough for your needs. 

Travel Restrictions In Canada Amid The Pandemic

There are other things you’ll need to consider aside from purchasing a travel medical insurance policy that covers COVID-19-related medical issues, such as the following:

Your Ability To Travel To A Specific Destination

Certain countries may not allow non-residents to travel to their locations. Make sure to find out where Canadians are allowed to travel. And if you’re travelling within Canada, find out where residents from your province are permitted to go. 

For example, during the last year and a half, the premiers in Canada had restricted interprovincial travel during the high peaks of the virus. Moreover, depending on your destination, there may be certain measures in place to keep the virus from spreading, including a 14-day quarantine like Canada. 

Find out if you should buy travel insurance when travelling within Canada.

You may also need a negative COVID-19 test before travelling to a certain destination, or even before you board your flight. For instance, when travelling to Canada, travellers must take the COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their departure. Be sure to do some homework on the specific destination you’re planning to travel to before leaving home. 

Requirements When Arriving In Canada

For months, Canadians have been warned that they will have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to Canada from an international destination. Before you travel, make sure any work or school obligations will allow for you to be away for another 2 weeks after you get back. 

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Furthermore, a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before your flight will also be required before flying back to Canada. Prior to leaving for your trip, make sure to find out where you can get a COVID-19 PCR test in the destination you’re travelling to, and make sure they can provide you with results within the time frame required by the airline.

Also, consider making plans to stay back for 14 days before coming back to Canada in case you test positive for COVID-19. While the chances may be low, it’s still possible. You don’t want to be stuck outside of Canada for an extended period of time without accommodations considered. And make sure you’ve got all required medications with you, as well as any devices required that may allow you to work remotely in the meantime. 

Penalty For Non-Compliance

If you fail to comply with the Canadian government’s instructions when you arrive in Canada — such as failing to quarantine for the full 14 days after arrival — you could face some stiff penalties, including a fine of up to $750,000 and even up to 6 months in prison. Moreover, if your failure to comply leads to another person getting sick and dying or causing serious bodily harm, you can be fined up to $1,000,000 and thrown in prison for up to 3 years.

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Final Thoughts

Everyone is getting cabin fever these days, and dreams of travelling to a warmer climate may be on the minds of many Canadians right now. That said, travel is still possible, even though it’s not recommended. 

If you do choose to take a trip amid the ongoing pandemic, make sure that you are adequately covered with a travel medical insurance policy and do your homework on all the requirements placed on travellers both here in Canada, and in the destination you’re travelling to.

It should also be noted that the situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is fluid, and changes are always taking place. As such, the information provided on this page may change as the situation evolves. Be sure to get in touch with your insurance company for the most accurate and up-to-date information about COVID-19 coverage provided, as well as the requirements both in Canada and abroad for travellers.

Caitlin is a graduate of Dawson College and Concordia University and has been working in the personal finance industry for over eight years. She believes that education and knowledge are the two most important factors in the creation of healthy financial habits. She also believes that openly discussing money and credit, and the responsibilities that come with them can lead to better decisions and a greater sense of financial security. One of the main ways she’s built good financial habits is by budgeting and tracking her spending through the YNAB budgeting app. She also automates her savings so she never forgets to put aside a portion of her income into her TFSA. She believes investing and passive income is key to earning financial freedom. She also uses her Aeroplan TD credit card to collect Aeroplan points so that she can save money when she travels.

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