Canadians stuck abroad after testing positive for COVID-19

Canadians stranded abroad after testing positive for COVID-19 on a trip are warning others traveling during the Omicron wave to anticipate travel disruptions that could cost thousands of dollars and keep them away from home much longer than expected.

While the ordeal could force return flights to be rescheduled, many Canadians say they are also dealing with the unexpected costs of additional accommodation, food and multiple PCR tests while being internationally isolated.

Some also warn that the rules on how to return to Canada after a positive test are confusing and difficult to navigate abroad.

CTVNews.ca asked Canadians traveling abroad who tested positive and had to self-isolate at their own expense to share their stories. The comments were emailed to CTVNews.ca and not all of them have been independently verified.

Ontario resident Paula Bass has been stuck in Los Angeles for more than two weeks after she tested positive for COVID-19 on December 29 after a trip to visit family.

According to the federal government, Canadians must wait until the 15th day after their positive test result to return to Canada to avoid being fined $5,000 per traveler (plus fees). From January 15, Canadians can only wait until the 11th day after a positive test result. If they have symptoms without a positive result, they should wait for the symptoms to clear and have a valid negative pre-entry test result.

While Bass says the layover allowed her to spend extra time with her 89-year-old mother, she says the ordeal cost her more than $3,000 that she hadn’t counted on.

If all goes well, Bass is expected to return to Toronto on Thursday afternoon.

Brennan Watson, who lives in Milverton, Ontario, says he tested positive for COVID-19 while visiting friends in Ireland over the holidays. He was due to return to Canada on December 29, but due to isolation requirements there, Watson is currently still in Ireland and is expected to return home on Friday.

Although he was able to safely isolate himself with a friend in Northern Ireland, he had to pay the cost of changing his flight, which was about an additional CA$2,000.

Florence Belair told CTVNews.ca that her father and brother came to visit her in Florida earlier this month. They did the mandatory PCR test before their return trip to Montreal, but Belair says they didn’t receive their positive results until they were already on their connecting flight to Chicago.

“They are now stuck in Chicago, forced into quarantine until January 24. They have to rebook their flights and pay for a hotel room for the whole 12 days,” she said.

The federal government requires all travelers to undergo molecular testing within 72 hours of their scheduled flight departure time to Canada.

If they have a connecting flight, the test must be taken within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of the last direct flight to Canada to avoid quarantine halfway through the journey. That’s why the government says Canadians may need to schedule the molecular test in their transit city.

EXPLAIN THE TRAVEL RULES

As of December 21, Canada will again require all inbound travelers, regardless of travel length or location, to present a pre-arrival negative molecular COVID-19 test to enter the country.

This means that all travelers entering Canada after traveling for 72 hours or less to the United States or other international locations must take a PCR test in a country other than Canada before their scheduled departure.

In addition to pre-departure testing, the federal government has imposed randomized on-arrival testing requirements for air and land travelers arriving from outside Canada due to concerns about the Omicron variant.

This policy requires travelers entering the country to be tested on arrival — at the airport or in some cases given a home test — and isolating until they get a negative result, with the exception of travel from the U.S.

On December 15, the federal government reinstated its non-essential travel advisory, urging all Canadians, regardless of vaccination status, to avoid international travel due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

“Many foreign governments are implementing strict travel restrictions due to the proliferation of the Omicron variant and international transportation options may be limited. As a result, you may have difficulty returning to Canada or have to stay abroad indefinitely” the government says. warns in the advice.

WHEN ONE TRAVELER TESTS POSITIVE AND THE OTHER NEGATIVE

Rafael Luz and his wife traveled to New Haven, Connecticut, in December to visit friends.

“Because the plan was simple, driving from Toronto to New Haven and back, it seemed like a safe plan, especially by avoiding airports and planes,” Luz said.

To return to Canada, they were given PCR tests on December 30. Luz said they received the results a few days later and found that his wife tested positive for COVID-19 and had to wait two weeks to return. Luz, however, was negative.

Luz said he had two tests done on January 3, one with a negative result and the other with a positive result.

“This would allow my wife to return to Canada on the 12th, while I wouldn’t be able to return until the 16th,” he explained.

Luz said they are waiting until they are both cleared to return to Canada together. Since neither has symptoms and both have been fully vaccinated, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control do not require them to quarantine while in New Haven unless they develop symptoms.

Sarah Paul of White Rock, BC is currently isolated with her 11-year-old son in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico. They left, with eight other people, on December 26 for a two-week vacation.

“We were very careful during our absence and followed all protocols and precautions,” said Paul. “We did our PCR tests as required, and everyone tested negative except for our 11-year-old son.”

“We made the decision as a family that everyone, including my husband and daughter, would fly home and that I would be the one to stay with my son and isolate themselves,” she added.

Paul said they are “all fine” and that her son has now made a full recovery, after having only “very mild symptoms of congestion and abdominal pain”.

While Paul said they were aware that a positive test was “always a possibility,” she says the experience of having to decide afterwards what to do abroad was “highly stressful.”

If Canadians are symptom-free after testing positive abroad, the federal government says they can provide evidence of a positive molecular COVID-19 test, rather than a negative one, two weeks before returning home.

However, Paul says she received an email from a North American company that specializes in medical tourism in Puerto Vallarta, stating that her son should be retested before he leaves, and in the event that he tests positive again, he needs a doctor’s note confirming that he has made a full recovery.

Paul said she was told the airline would require this before they let him board. However, she says the airline seems “reluctant to answer these questions due to liability issues”.

“It’s disorienting and upsetting not to really know what’s expected of us, or to have an answer for our 11-year-old son, when he asks when he can go home to Canada,” said Paul.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TRAVEL INSURANCE

Martin Firestone, president of Travel Secure, a Toronto-based travel insurance broker, told CTVNews.ca Canadians can prepare for the opportunity to stay abroad if they test positive for COVID-19 by purchasing insurance that covers travel interruptions.

“The fear of testing positive and not being able to get back on the plane to go home is a serious concern,” Firestone said in a telephone interview on Thursday, adding that insurers have acknowledged this and are implementing the policy. have adjusted accordingly.

Firestone said the average travel interruption insurance policy will cover about $200 per day per person for 14 days up to a maximum of $2,800, plus $500 towards the purchase of new airline tickets.

While it may not seem like a lot of money, Firestone said it’s “better than nothing.”

He noted that insurance that includes trip interruption costs about $50 to $75 per person, with the option to extend coverage if they need to stay longer at their destination to isolate at no additional cost.

In addition, Firestone said most insurance policies already cover medical costs related to COVID-19 should someone become seriously ill or require hospitalization abroad.

“That’s been a rescue for a lot of people who had the foresight to buy it before going on a trip,” he said.

Firestone stressed the importance of travelers being “well covered” if they plan to vacation during the Omicron wave.

“If you haven’t bought it, you’ll have to cover all your expenses, buy a new plane ticket home, and needless to say, that can add up to huge costs depending on the resort you’re in,” he said.

Edited by CTVNews.ca producer Sonja Puzic

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