Canadians urged not to travel during coronavirus outbreak, but some are taking the risk


In the midst of a coronavirus outbreak and recent announcement urging Canadians to postpone or cancel non-essential travel, some Canadians are wondering if they should still take the risk. 

All cruise ships carrying over 500 passengers are banned from landing in Canada until later in the summer, and arriving flights will also be restricted to landing at specific airports.

READ MORE: Canadians should postpone, cancel non-essential foreign travel amid coronavirus: officials

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said in a press conference on Friday that there are now 157 cases of the virus in Canada, and travel is affected as a result.

“My advice is to postpone or cancel all non-essential travel outside of Canada,” Tam said.

“This means reconsidering your vacations. By making the choice to stay at home and not travel outside of Canada, you are protecting yourself, your family and doing your part to slow the spread of the virus.”

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READ MORE: Cancelling or rebooking your vacation? Current policies of major airlines and hotels

The Public Health Agency of Canada releases travel health notices with the potential risks to Canadian travellers. They range from level one, meaning to practise normal precautions, to level four, which urges people to avoid all travel to high-risk countries.

Lesley Paull, owner of Edmonton-based Paull Travel, said people should definitely cancel or reschedule their trip to a country with a level three or four notice such as China, Italy and Iran.

“To go somewhere and you’re going to be worried the whole time, … that’s just not fun,” Paull said.

Travelling during a viral outbreak

Travelling during a viral outbreak

Despite these travel advisories, some people are taking advantage of cheap flights and travel packages amid the outbreak. 

Julie Jackson booked a trip three weeks ago to celebrate her daughter’s high school graduation. She said they saved about $400 each for their flights to California in July. 

“I would definitely have fear if I was going to Europe, the U.K. or Australia,” said Jackson, who lives in Vaughn, Ont. 

“But to the U.S., I’m not too fearful.”

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READ MORE: Going on vacation amid the coronavirus outbreak? Here’s what to know

As of Mar. 12, four people have died from the virus in California and there are 198 confirmed cases.

Another traveller took to Twitter, saying she’s still planning to go to Greece in the summer. 

There are at least 117 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Greece and one person has died so far from the virus.

Others who once had no intention to scrap their travel plans are now considering rescheduling or cancelling altogether. 

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Vanessa Neshevich, 37, booked a vacation with her husband and a friend to Italy in June. 

When the Toronto resident paid for the flights and hotels last month, she wasn’t concerned about the coronavirus outbreak. Once the death toll in Italy climbed to 1,016 by March 12, Neshevich decided to cancel.

“We have a thin shred of hope but realize it’s not looking good,” she said. 

Tips for travelling amid ongoing coronavirus concerns

Tips for travelling amid ongoing coronavirus concerns

Kelly Simmons, a nurse in B.C., feels the same way as Neshevich.

Simmons planned a road trip to Seattle for spring break with her husband and two sons, ages six and nine years old. When she booked the vacation at the end of February, no one had died yet in the U.S. from the new coronavirus.

About one day later, she said, the U.S. announced its first death from the novel coronavirus near Seattle. After the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on Mar. 11 and the death toll rose to 31 deaths in Washington state, Simmons decided to cancel, too.

“I do have fears about possibly being exposed and then bringing it back to Vancouver,” she said. 

“I’m a healthcare worker. I see a lot of different people all day and I feel like it’s my duty not to go.”

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Can you get your money back for a cancelled plane ticket?

Can you get your money back for a cancelled plane ticket?

If you are still travelling amid the outbreak, travel experts said to make sure you have insurance and are covered for trip cancellation. 

“Read that fine print, too, before you book anything,” said Toronto-based travel expert Jennifer Weatherhead Harrington.

“If you have something already booked and you’re thinking of cancelling, call them up or reach out to them on social media. … You need to make sure that you are educated as the purchaser of those tickets and you know what the risks are.”

READ MORE: Will travel insurance cover coronavirus? Experts break down why and why not

Does travel insurance cover COVID-19?

Travel insurance protects you if you purchased it before a government-issued a “no non-essential travel” or “do not travel” advisory.

“It’s not coronavirus that’s being covered per se, it’s any medical emergencies,” John Shmuel, managing editor at, previously told Global News.

“If you’re buying travel insurance right now, most consumer policies will deny you because there is an advisory in place.”

Shmuel said a variety of consumer policies include epidemics and pandemics, provided consumers purchase insurance before they happen.

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Those looking to purchase travel insurance after government advisories change may be out of luck.

However, “if you bought your insurance before this outbreak happened, before the advisory, and you get sick, then your insurance company will cover it. They’ll cover your treatment there and they’ll likely fly you back home,” Shmuel said.

Confused about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is very low for Canadians, but they caution against travel to affected areas (a list of those areas can be found here). If you do travel to these places, officials recommend you self-monitor to see whether you develop symptoms and, if you do, to contact public health authorities.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly and Emerald Bensadoun

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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