Have you got the itch to travel during the age of COVID-19?
You’re not alone. However, domestic travel within Canada is a patchwork quilt of travel bans or requirements and international travel is even more complicated. But if you’re trying to figure out how to salvage your summer vacation, there are some tools that can help.
The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable, comprised of leaders from across the industry including representatives from airlines, airports, hotels and chambers of commerce, have come together to support a “responsible reboot” to travel during the pandemic.
They have developed an interactive map that helps Canadians navigate the rules. A person can plug in their province and their destination to find out what restrictions they may face. It also includes links to many provincial websites for further updates.
“There is so much confusion,” Steve Sammut, roundtable member and CEO of Rocky Mountaineer, told CBC News recently. “We think it’s important for Canadians to understand what their options are.”
Canadians can travel to Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. without having to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival. Visitors to Yukon, Manitoba and Nova Scotia may be required to self-isolate, depending where in Canada they’re travelling from.
The four eastern provinces have created a travel bubble that allows Atlantic Canadians to travel freely within those provinces — with no self-isolation requirement. Canadians outside that bubble cannot visit Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador — unless they meet specific criteria, such as owning a cottage.
Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, meanwhile, remain off limits to travellers from all provinces, with the exception of residents of Churchill, Man., who can enter Nunavut.
The travel industry has been hit extremely hard by COVID-19. Tourism is a $102-billion industry that employs about 1.8 million Canadians, according to government statistics. The losses and layoffs in that sector – both domestically and abroad – are already staggering.
The federal government’s advisory against all non-essential international travel, including cruise ships, during the pandemic remains in effect until further notice. Any Canadians travelling internationally do so at their own risk and would also have to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their return. The U.S. border – a country where COVID-19 cases continue to spike - remains closed to all non-essential travel until Aug. 21 and that date could be extended.
Until Ottawa lifts the advisory, it’s important to note international travellers likely won't be able to purchase medical insurance that covers COVID-19-related illnesses.
“The mentality is, if our own country’s advising us not to travel to the United States or Europe or anywhere right now, then we as insurers shouldn’t be covering [COVID-19],” Toronto-based insurance broker Martin Firestone told CBC.
Canadians are still limited to where they can travel internationally. The roundtable’s website lists countries that have opened their borders. To date, they include Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.
Most public health professionals agree travel increases your chances of getting infected or spreading the virus. If you must, make sure you know and follow important public health guidelines. The main thing is keeping your contact with others as low as possible.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, categorizes activities based on their level of risk. Among the least risky is camping with your family, renting a vacation home through Airbnb for your inner circle or eating outside at a restaurant. Examples of medium risk would be visiting a busy beach or lake or eating inside a restaurant. Activities the CDC considers a high risk would include visiting a theme park, going to an indoor bar or flying to another country.
If you plan to travel this summer, consider these tips:
- Check out local restrictions
- Be wary of travel to known coronavirus hotspots
- Consider getting a coronavirus test before and after travel
- Be extra cautious if you fly
- Stay away from crowded areas
- Don't travel with anyone who's sick
- Bring face masks and wear them
- Minimize contact with people not in your immediate group
- Dine outside
If you choose to travel – be it domestic or internationally – it’s critical to follow all public health guidelines: wear a mask, wash your hands frequently and keep hand sanitizer on hand. Be safe, not sorry.
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