Coronavirus And Travel: What Should You Do?
With widespread panic about the coronavirus, I thought a timely look at the facts was in order. There is disinformation, but there are also more than 102,471 COVID-19 cases worldwide, with at least 3,491 deaths. On the flip side, 57,463 people have recovered. Here are some immediate questions answered.
|Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay
What's my risk of coronavirus exposure if I travel now?That depends on where you are headed. First, since the risk level can change daily, you'll want to consult the government's travel advisories.
• In Canada, you can check here for Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Travel advice
• In the USA, you can check the CDC website
As I write this, there is an elevated risk associated with traveling to, and travelers from, these locations:
• Italy (Northern Italy)
• South Korea
• Singapore (Canada only)
• Hong Kong
In some cases, your flight may already be cancelled. Air Canada, British Airways, and others have already axed all flights to the Chinese mainland for the time being.
In some areas, you may be subject to specific entry and exit restrictions because of the risk of contagion. Check with the foreign diplomatic mission of your destination online to be sure.
Can I cancel my trip without paying a huge penalty?That again will depend on what type of ticket you purchased (i.e. a refundable ticket) and whether or not you added that kind of coverage to your travel insurance package.
TIP: Standard travel insurance, even with trip cancellation, does not cover the case where you are afraid of an outbreak at your destination. For that, you will have to add CFAR - or Cancel For Any Reason - coverage. That type of coverage usually has to be purchased when you buy the trip, and at least a couple of weeks before the trip. (Note: CFAR policies are illegal in the state of New York.)
NOTE: In Canada, two of the major carries - Manulife and TuGo - have stopped selling new coverage for trip cancellation due to fears of the coronavirus. In usual cases, trip cancellation is covered in the event of a travel advisory, but now that it is a known issue, other than existing cases so far, the companies say it is no longer covered by their policies. Again, that does not apply if CFAR insurance is purchased.
The same rule applies if you are already on your vacation, and an outbreak occurs nearby - you want to come home early. A regular policy will leave you out-of-pocket. A CFAR policy will at least reimburse the additional charges you incur when you book your new flight home.
|Image by jodeng from Pixabay
Can I change my flight/booking?Some airlines, notably American, Delta, Frontier, Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Hawaiian, Spirit, and United Airlines in the US, along with Lufthansa, Air France, and KLM, will let you reschedule your booking with no or minimal fees. In Canada, Air Canada and WestJet are following suit.
• Some restrictions may apply.
Is domestic travel safer?It may be...for now. However, with domestic cases on the rise in North America, it may not present any less of a risk.
What basic measures can I take?First, educate yourself on the virus. It is not airborne, and can only be transferred via direct contact with bodily fluid (such as bits of mucus that may fly into the air when someone coughs).
• Wash your hands well and frequently;
• Cough into your elbow;
• Try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Whether you head out on the road, or stay at home, stay safe!