UPDATE: Since this article was published, information has changed. The Canada-U.S. border is now closed to all non-essential travel, and the Canadian border is closed to all foreign travellers.
The federal government is now advising against all international travel in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
New measures to limit travel in and out of Canada were announced Friday, as the global death toll from the novel coronavirus passes 5,000.
“These are significant steps. We will do more,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday. “Addressing COVID-19 must be a Team Canada effort.”
But what do travel advisories mean for you and your travel plans? Here answers to some questions you might have.
Are the borders closed?
No, Canada’s borders remain open as of March 13.
But the federal government is recommending against all non-essential travel outside of Canada.
In a press conference Friday, Transportation Minister Marc Garneau announced international travel would be restricted to a few select airports.
“We believe that this is a precaution that we should take so that we concentrate overseas international passengers coming into Canada to a smaller number of airports,” Garneau said.
The federal government will name those airports in the coming days.
Trudeau said he is involved in ongoing conversations with President Donald Trump about maintaining the U.S.-Canada border’s openness, but everything is on the table for possible future travel policies.
“We’re not closing the door to any further steps but we will make those decisions based on what the science tells us,” he said.
What is non-essential travel?
While there’s no official definition of non-essential travel, officials are advising people to err on the side of caution.
WATCH: What is social distancing? Story continues below.
A vacation to Mexico or a quick shopping trip in the States is not considered essential, but truckers delivering goods across the border is.
Similar advisories were issued at the provincial level by B.C., Alberta and Quebec Thursday, where officials clarified the seriousness of avoiding non-essential travel.
“That means no milk runs to Bellingham [in Washington state],” B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said.
A good way to evaluate your planned travel is to consider the possible consequences: the prospect of contracting the virus yourself, possibly carrying it to another country or bringing it home, or facing a 14-day quarantine upon your return.
While the federal government didn’t specifically note quarantines for returning travellers, both B.C. and Alberta are recommending anyone who does leave Canada to self-monitor for 14 days upon return.
You can always find the government’s most up-to-date travel advice here.
Will I be reimbursed if I cancel my trip?
As of March 5, two of Canada’s largest insurers — Manulife and B.C.-based TUGO — classified coronavirus as a “known circumstance.”
What that basically means is these companies will not cover a trip against cancellation for coronavirus-related reasons, if the trip was booked after March 11. If the trip was booked before that date, you’re likely covered in some way if your trip is insured, but it’s important to check in with your specific provider.
According to the Travel Health Association of Canada, if you need to cancel your trip because you are quarantined, that would likely qualify under most insurance plans.
WATCH: Will travel and tourism recover from coronavirus? Story continues below.
As for airlines, both WestJet and Air Canada announced flexible change policies for flights scheduled until the end of March, and removed change and cancellation fees for flights scheduled until the end of March.
So if you had a trip planned abroad and you now need to cancel because of the government advisory, the best advice is to check with your insurer or airline to see what their specific cancellation policy is.
Can people come here from other countries?
Yes, but they could be subject to screening for symptoms of COVID-19, depending on where they are coming from.
And while the borders aren’t closed, the federal government is officially advising against international travellers coming to Canada.
Can I leave my province?
For now there are no restrictions on inter-provincial travel, though Trudeau did not rule out the possibility in the future.
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