Should Canadian Snowbirds Return to Canada Due to COVID-19?

03/16/2020

Should Canadians Come Home Due to COVID-19?

Over the past several days we have been receiving a number of inquiries from Snowbird Advisor members who are still in their winter destinations asking if they should return to Canada as soon as possible.

While it is not our place to advise you on whether or not you should come home early, we want to make you aware that on March 14th, 2020 the following government departments and officials began advising Canadians abroad to return to Canada as soon as possible due to the COVID-19 outbreak:

Possible Travel Interruptions/Restrictions

The COVID-19 outbreak is evolving by the hour and it is unclear what actions governments and/or travel providers may take in response to the outbreak. Keep in mind that we are in uncharted territory here, and some travel restrictions and interruptions may be unprecedented.

For example, it is unclear at this time if airlines will suspend or cease operations either in an attempt to contain the virus or for financial reasons. It is also unknown what actions governments may take going forward, such as travel restrictions or quarantines, as they try to contain the virus.

Both of these scenarios, if they occur, could make it difficult or impossible for Canadians to return home for an unknown period of time.

Ultimately the choice of whether to come home or remain in your winter destination is a personal one, but the Canadian government has increasingly reinforced its position urging Canadians who are outside Canada to come home as soon as possible.

UPDATE – Monday, March 16th at 2:00 pm:

  • Canada is banning entry to non-residents, with some limited exceptions, including an exemption for U.S. citizens.
  • Starting Wednesday, March 18th, only 4 Canadian airports will continue to receive international passenger flights, with some exceptions. These airports are Toronto (Pearson Airport), Vancouver (International Airport), Calgary (International Airport) and Montreal (Trudeau Airport).

Travel Insurance

Another factor in your decision to come home early should be your travel insurance coverage.

Many travel insurance providers are currently modifying coverage and clarifying when they will and won’t cover COVID-19 related claims.

Each provider is establishing its own rules for how they are going to handle COVID-19 claims, and whether you are covered or not can depend on a number of factors including, but not limited to, when you purchased your insurance policy, when you departed on your trip and travel advisories issued for travel to your destination.

In addition, coverage terms from travel insurance providers related to COVID-19 are likely to continue to change as the outbreak evolves, which means the terms of your travel insurance coverage may be different tomorrow or next week than they are now.

Accordingly, we suggest you take the following action:

  • Visit your travel insurance provider’s website to see if they have posted any changes or clarification about coverage related to COVID-19
  • If you can’t find answers about your coverage on their website, try emailing your provider with your questions (all travel insurance providers are experiencing much higher than normal call volumes at this time, resulting in long wait times and busy signals, so email might be your best bet to get a response).
  • If you are a Snowbird Advisor Insurance client, you can find information about your coverage for COVID-19 related claims here.

Regardless of who your travel insurance provider is, if your policy no longer covers you for COVID-19 related claims based on your unique set of circumstances, you may want to consider returning to Canada as soon as possible.