China is a top destination for travellers in search of history, culture, and architecture. But the Canadian government just issued a travel advisory due to the outbreak of a new coronavirus (COVID-19) in China. While the risks for Canadian travellers are considered low, authorities recommend you exercise a high degree of caution during your stay.
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause a wide variety of health problems, ranging from a simple cold to much more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia, kidney failure, or gastrointestinal disease.
People with weakened immune systems—the elderly, young children, and those suffering from chronic illnesses—are at greater risk of developing complications if they become infected with a coronavirus.
What are the symptoms of a coronavirus illness?
Symptoms of infection often resemble those of the common cold. Examples include:
- Runny nose
- Cough accompanied by a sore throat
- Difficulty breathing
- General feeling of weakness
Symptoms vary in seriousness depending on the health of the person infected and can worsen unexpectedly. That’s why you must be very careful if you visit a region where a coronavirus has been detected, especially if you have a weakened immune system.
For more information about coronaviruses, see the Canadian government website.
What to do if you get sick while travelling
If you have one or more of the above symptoms, start by contacting the medical assistance service available through your travel insurance plan. The numbers to call can be found at the bottom of your travel insurance certificate.
The medical assistance service specialists will assess the symptoms you describe and direct you as needed to a hospital or clinic for the appropriate care. Depending on your situation and needs, they may also:
- Provide simultaneous interpretation to help you communicate with healthcare personnel
- Advance funds if you are required to pay for care upfront
- Plan emergency repatriation to your home province
- Monitor your case closely until you’ve recovered
During your consultation, inform the physician if you have visited any risk areas (a farm, a public market, etc.) or been in contact with any animals or persons who showed symptoms associated with coronavirus.
Does my travel insurance cover me for emergency medical care if I visit a country where a coronavirus has been detected?
Yes, your travel insurance covers emergency medical care received for a coronavirus infection.
Remember, however, that if you are sick before your departure, that illness may not be covered by your insurance policy. If you develop symptoms associated with a coronavirus before your vacation, it may be wiser to avoid travelling altogether. For more information, read the clauses about preexisting conditions in your insurance policy closely or contact your insurer.
Am I covered by trip cancellation or interruption insurance?
Yes, as long as you purchased it before the Canadian government issued an advisory to “avoid all travel” or “avoid non-essential travel” to your destination.
That’s why we recommend purchasing trip cancellation or interruption insurance as soon as you plan a vacation abroad. That way if an advisory against all travel or non-essential travel is issued after you purchase your plan and you decide to cancel or return from your trip earlier, you can be reimbursed for all prepaid non-refundable travel expenses covered under your plan.
To find out if an official advisory has been issued, visit the Canadian government’s Travel Advice and Advisories page.
Prevention is the best medicine!
During your entire vacation, it is important to follow certain rules of hygiene and be careful to minimize your risks of becoming infected or contagious. Here are the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the Canadian government:
- Wash your hands regularly with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. It is always good to have alcohol-based sanitizer available in case you do not have access to running water. Never touch your eyes, mouth, or nose before washing your hands.
- Check the food that you eat. Make sure any meat or chicken products you eat are thoroughly cooked and have not expired. Take the necessary precautions to avoid any form of cross-contamination when you cook raw meat and wash your hands often.
- Be careful about where you go during your stay. If you are staying in a country on the advisory list, avoid busy areas or areas presenting an increased risk of contamination, such as farms or animal markets. Avoid all contact with wild or farm animals, living or dead, as well as any surfaces that could be contaminated with their feces or body fluids.
- Limit or avoid close contact with sick people who show symptoms such as cough, fever, or difficulty breathing. If one of your travel companions develops these symptoms, immediately call the medical assistance service for help. If you are taking care of a sick person, wash your hands frequently.
- Minimize the risks of spreading the virus. When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose fully with a tissue, your sleeve, or the crook of your elbow. If you use a tissue, dispose of it properly and then wash your hands.
- Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you get sick during or after your trip, avoid all contact with others and seek medical assistance immediately.
Stay informed, be prepared, and take precautions: these are the three best ways to ensure you stay safe during your vacation. As soon as you start making your travel plans, check regularly for updates on the specifics of the country you will be visiting.
The Canadian government’s Travel and Tourism page is an excellent resource for anyone planning to travel abroad. There you’ll find the government’s official recommendations for safety measures and precautions to take before and during your stay, country by country. To learn more, check out our post on how to travel safely.
Our medical assistance service specialists can also answer your questions before you leave. Feel free to give them a call!