The federal government’s easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions will generally make it easier for travellers to get insurance coverage, since some providers weren’t in the position to offer coverage when travel advisors were at a higher level, travel insurers tell Canadian Underwriter.
COVID-19 and international travel is now Level 2 (practice enhanced health precautions), down from Level 3 (avoid non-essential travel). Moreover, effective Apr. 1, fully vaccinated travellers will no longer need to provide a pre-entry COVID-19 test result to enter Canada by air, land or water, although they may be selected for mandatory random testing, the Government of Canada recently announced.
Unless exempt, partially or unvaccinated travellers to Canada five years of age or older must continue to provide proof of an accepted type of pre-entry COVID-19 test result.
The easing of restrictions affects travel insurers differently depending on carrier and individual policy.
“While it’s important to choose coverage based on individual needs, with the lifting of the Level 3 global travel advisory, emergency medical expenses related to COVID-19 are now eligible under our standard plans as long as on the policy effective date, there is no Level 3 of Level 4 [avoid all travel] travel advisory related to COVID-19 in effect at the destination,” says Julia Koene, a spokeswoman for Allianz Global Assistance Canada.
For travel insurer TuGo, the travel advisory level change doesn’t affect vaccinated customers who had emergency medical assistance, since TuGo began offering coverage for COVID-19 regardless of travel advisory back in November 2021, says Brad Dance, TuGo’s chief customer officer and past president of the Travel Health Insurance Association.
Dance adds that since the travel advisory has been lowered, TuGo has seen a further uptick in travel insurance purchases for travellers of all ages. “Traveller confidence has continued to increase with the Government of Canada lowering the advisory level, suggesting it’s safer to travel now,” he says. “We anticipate even more uptake now, with the testing requirements ending Apr. 1.”
Both Koene and Dance highlight the ongoing importance of trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance.
Dance says brokers selling or referring travel insurance should know the importance of offering trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance, particularly during uncertain times. Trip cancellation covers the non-refundable costs of a trip if something happens before the departure date, causing the traveller to cancel the trip. Trip interruption covers events that happen after departure, causing the traveller to interrupt the trip, or to return earlier or later than their original return date.
“COVID-19 remains a known event for trip cancellation and trip interruption benefits offered by Allianz Global Assistance,” Koene adds. “For policies with trip cancellation and trip interruption benefits that were purchased on or after Mar. 11, 2020, any trip cancellation or trip interruption claims related to previous or future Government of Canada travel advisories connected to COVID-19 will continue to not be payable.”