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Canadians stranded abroad after testing positive for COVID-19

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

While the ordeal may force rescheduling of return flights, many Canadians say they also face the unforeseen costs of additional accommodation, food and multiple PCR tests while isolating themselves at the foreigner.

Some also warn that the rules for 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. Responses were emailed to CTVNews.ca and not all have been independently verified.

Ontario resident Paula Bass has been stranded in Los Angeles for more than two weeks after testing positive for COVID-19 on December 29 following 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 a fine of $ 5,000 per traveler (plus supplements). As of January 15, Canadians can only wait until the 11th day after a positive test result. If they show symptoms without a positive result, they should wait for the symptoms to end and have a valid negative result on the pre-entry test.

While Bass says the travel disruption allowed her to spend more time with her 89-year-old mother, she says the ordeal cost her more than US $ 3,000 than she had anticipated.

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

Brennan Watson, who lives in Milverton, Ont., Says he tested positive for COVID-19 while visiting friends in Ireland during the holidays. He was supposed 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 friends in Northern Ireland, he had to incur the cost of modifying his flight, which amounted to an additional CA $ 2,000.

Florence Belair told CTVNews.ca that her father and brother visited her in Florida earlier this month. They passed the mandatory PCR test for their return trip to Montreal, however, Belair says they did not receive their positive results until they were already on their connecting flight to Chicago.

“They are now stuck in Chicago, forced to self-quarantine until Jan. 24. They have to book their flight and pay for a hotel room for the 12 days,” she said.

The federal government requires all travelers to take a molecular test within 72 hours of the scheduled departure time of their flight 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 having to self-quarantine mid-trip. For this reason, the government says Canadians may need to schedule molecular testing in their transit city.

DISASSEMBLE THE TRAVEL RULES

As of December 21, Canada has re-required that all inbound travelers, regardless of duration or location of travel, provide proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test prior to arrival in order to enter the country. .

This means that all travelers returning to Canada will have to undergo a molecular test in a country other than Canada, before their scheduled departure.

In addition to pre-departure testing, the federal government has imposed random arrival testing requirements for air and ground travelers coming from outside of Canada due to concerns about the Omicron variant.

This policy requires that all travelers entering the country be tested on arrival – either at the airport or, in some cases, undergo a home test – and isolated until they receive a negative result, with the exception of travel from the United States.

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

“Many foreign governments have strict travel restrictions due to the spread of the Omicron variant, and international transportation options may be limited. Therefore, you may have difficulty returning to Canada or have to stay abroad for an indefinite period, ”the government said. warns in the notice.

WHEN ONE TRAVELER TESTS POSITIVE AND THE OTHER NEGATIVE

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

“Since the plan was easy, to go from Toronto to New Haven and back, it seemed like a safe plan, especially avoiding airports and planes,” Luz said.

Coming back to Canada, they underwent PCR testing on December 30. Luz said she received the results a few days later and discovered his wife was positive for COVID-19 and had to wait two weeks to return. However, Luz was negative.

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

“With that, my wife could return to Canada on the 12th, while I could only come back on the 16th,” he explained.

Luz said they were both waiting to be allowed to return to Canada together. Since neither of them have symptoms and they are both fully vaccinated, the United States Centers for Disease Control does not require them to quarantine in New Haven, unless they do not develop symptoms.

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

“We were very careful while we were away, following 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, my husband and my daughter included, would go home, and that I would be the only one to stay with my son and isolate myself,” she added.

Paul said they were “absolutely fine” and that his son had now made a full recovery, having only “very mild symptoms of congestion and upset stomach”.

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

If Canadians no longer show symptoms after testing positive abroad, the federal government says they can provide evidence that a positive COVID-19 molecular test takes two weeks before returning home, instead of ‘a negative test.

However, Paul says she received an email from a North American medical tourism company in Puerto Vallarta stating that her son should be retested before leaving, and in the event that he is positive again, he would need a letter from a doctor confirming that he is fully recovered.

Paul said he was told the airline would require this before allowing him to board the flight. However, she says the airline appears “reluctant to answer these questions due to liability issues.”

“It’s disorienting and unsettling not really knowing what is expected of us, or having an answer for our 11 year old son, when he asks when he will be allowed to return home to Canada.” Paul said.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TRAVEL INSURANCE

Martin Firestone, president of Travel Secure, a Toronto-based travel insurance brokerage, told CTVNews.ca that Canadians can prepare for the option of staying abroad if they test positive for COVID- 19 by purchasing an insurance policy that covers trip interruptions.

“The fear of testing positive and not being able to catch a plane home is a serious concern,” Firestone said in a telephone interview on Thursday, adding that insurers had recognized this and had adjusted their fonts accordingly.

Firestone said the average trip interruption insurance policy would cover around $ 200 per day per person for 14 days up to a maximum of $ 2,800, plus $ 500 for the cost of purchasing a new ticket. plane.

While that might not seem like a lot of money, Firestone said it was “better than nothing.”

He noted that an insurance policy that includes trip interruption will cost around $ 50 to $ 75 per person, with the option to extend coverage if she has to stay longer at destination to self-isolate at no additional cost. .

In addition, Firestone said most insurance policies already cover medical costs related to COVID-19 if a person becomes seriously ill or has to be hospitalized abroad.

“It has been a savior for many people who have had the foresight to buy it before going on a trip,” he said.

Firestone has stressed the importance for travelers to be “adequately covered” if they plan to go on vacation during the Omicron wave.

“If you haven’t bought it, you have to cover all your expenses, buy a new plane ticket home, and it goes without saying that this can be a huge expense depending on which resort you are in.” , did he declare.

Edited by CTVNews.ca Producer Sonja Puzic

Correction:

This story has been updated to clarify that entry requirements for travelers coming to Canada include a negative COVID-19 molecular test, which may include, but is not limited to, a PCR test.