Planning, insurance and patience the watchwords of travel in the event of a pandemic

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Planning ahead is essential if you plan to leave Canada and want to avoid unnecessary headaches – and, in some cases, hefty fines – on the return trip.

Traveling during a global pandemic comes with a few hard and fast rules: get COVID insurance, plan for contingencies, and make sure you have plenty of patience.

According to veteran travel agent and world traveler Cathy Scott, these steps are all essential if you’re planning to leave Canada and want to avoid unnecessary headaches – and, in some cases, hefty fines – while traveling. back.

“Thing # 1 is you need to get COVID travel insurance,” said Scott, director of exploration and owner of Departures Travel, located in Victoria and Sidney. “I’m not even talking about medical insurance, which is obvious, because you’re not going anywhere without medical insurance, but it is COVID insurance.”

Don’t even consider traveling without COVID insurance, which is still evolving and only recently expanded to include cancellation insurance, Scott said, noting that the cancellation clause is essential if you are staying at a resort and that you tested positive just before your departure. due to returning home.

“COVID insurance will cover you for additional stays – it will cover a certain amount per night.”

Scott and other officers spend a lot of time educating potential travelers, as the rules can change quickly, as all Canadians have seen at the provincial and federal levels.

A better understanding of the rules may have helped a few local travelers who were recently fined $ 5,750 each for returning to Canada after testing positive for COVID.

Aidan Carkeek and a travel partner, both fully vaccinated, left the island for a road trip to the United States in mid-December. The long-planned trip was cut short when they were in an accident. They had to rent a vehicle to get back to Canada.

The couple traveled to Seattle, where they had an expensive PCR test, with the results to be sent by text within two hours.

They filled out the ArriveCan application form on their way to the Canadian border. Before they reached the border, their results arrived, showing that both had tested positive.

They said they checked the Government of Canada’s app and website for advice and believed they could return to Canada provided they self-isolate immediately.

But Canada Border Services and a representative from a public health agency told them they should not have approached the border with a positive test result and instead should have immediately self-isolate. in a hotel in the United States.

The couple were fined for failing to comply with public health orders and were asked to continue their quarantine plan, which included returning to the island.

Carkeek, who has a business in Sidney, said despite a second PCR test that came back negative, he still had to maintain quarantine for 10 days.

Public Health Canada told the Times Colonist that Canadian citizens have the right to re-enter Canada from the United States if they can provide a negative COVID test taken in the United States, or a positive test that was taken 14 to 180 days before re-entering Canada.

A statement said a positive result of a test taken on the same day as the attempt to cross the border would not be admissible and the traveler would violate the order in emergency council and could be subject to enforcement action , such as heavy fines or criminal prosecution. .

“Government officials at Canada’s ports of entry will review the traveler’s isolation plans and confirm that they have private transportation to their place of isolation,” Public Health Canada said.

Scott, who recently returned from Antarctica, said beyond insurance and planning for worst-case scenarios, travelers should be patient.

She said rules and regulations change quickly and travelers are often faced with different languages ​​and interpretations of the rules – and with agencies, businesses and border services often understaffed due to the pandemic – so that things may take longer than expected.

Despite all the obstacles, many people continue to travel, Scott said. “Definitely not something like the norm,” she said. “But we have clients who have just finished and are fed up with staying home. They just take all the protocols and all the precautions, and they go anyway. “

Most of the travelers who get on the plane now are intrepid people who aren’t wired to stay home, Scott said.

“I’m in the business, but I don’t like to encourage anyone to do things that go against what Dr Bonnie Henry said,” she said. “We always say to our clients, ‘This is the time to stay home,’ but we have clients who are just going to do it.

“And so we want to make sure that those who are committed to go, that they take care.”

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