Canadians yearning to travel abroad — despite the COVID-19 pandemic — can now get medical insurance to cover costs if they get sick with the coronavirus while travelling.
In March, when the virus began its global spread and Canada advised against non-essential travel abroad, travel insurance providers stopped selling COVID-19 medical coverage.
Now, several insurance providers have resumed offering the coverage along with their regular travel insurance plans.
Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and travel agency Flight Centre have also joined in, offering free COVID-19 medical coverage to passengers booking certain international flights and vacation packages.
Travel insurance broker Martin Firestone said he’s surprised by the spate of offers — considering Canada’s advisory against international travel remains intact due to the ongoing pandemic.
“Your country is now currently under a Level 3 travel advisory, and you’ve got airlines enticing people with free medical coverage,” said Firestone with Travel Secure in Toronto.
“Whether you have coverage or not, you may be in a very precarious position with [available] hospital beds and treatment and the ability to be flown back to Canada.”
Many companies providing COVID-19 coverage told CBC News they’re responding to consumer demand.
“People are looking to travel,” said Richard Job, Flight Centre’s vice-president of commercial partnership. “They are able to travel if they want to, and we just want to enable that to take place as safely as we can.”
International travellers returning to Canada must self-isolate for 14 days.
WATCH | The future of air travel:
Who’s offering coverage?
Manulife announced this week it will start offering the coverage in October.
The plans vary. For example, not all providers cover daily expenses if an infected traveller is forced to quarantine abroad.
Each company said it offers medical coverage for all ailments, including COVID-19, for up to $5 million — with the exception of Manulife, which has capped COVID-19 coverage at $200,000.
Manulife declined to comment on the cap.
Airline industry offering free coverage
Flight Centre and the airlines are providing free coverage only for COVID-19 illnesses and related expenses, such as accommodation costs while being quarantined. The offers are available for a limited time — ranging from the next seven months to a year.
Customers booking vacation packages with Flight Centre, Air Canada Vacations and WestJet to select destinations — which exclude the United States — are covered for up to $100,000 in medical bills. WestJet provides the same coverage for international flights, excluding the U.S.
Sunwing will cover up to $200,000 in COVID-19 medical expenses for passengers booking any of its vacation packages and flights departing on or after Oct. 16. Air Canada (which is separate from Air Canada Vacations) currently provides the same $200,000 coverage for customers purchasing international fights, including to the U.S.
Although the Canada-U.S. land border is closed to non-essential traffic, Canadians can still fly to the U.S.
Firestone questions if $200,000 would be enough to cover a severe case of COVID-19 in the U.S., where medical costs can run high.
“What if the bill is $500,000?” he said. “Then it becomes your problem.”
Manulife, which is partnering with Air Canada to provide the coverage, declined to comment.
Air Canada said that passengers wanting extra protection can consider purchasing an extensive travel insurance plan.
What about snowbirds?
Medipac’s main customers are snowbirds heading to the southern U.S. where the COVID-19 infection rate remains high. But the insurance provider said it’s confident it won’t be bombarded with COVID-19 claims, because Medipac’s clientele will likely play it safe.
“The people that we’re tailoring our product to are going to do what they’ve always done, travel down as a couple, go to their winter residence,” said Medipac spokesperson Christopher Davidge.
“We’re not talking about cramming into a discount airline … and staying at a resort hotel and going to a theme park.”
Snowbird Perry Cohen said he and his wife, Rose, plan to take all necessary precautions when they likely head to their condo this winter in Deerfield Beach, Fla., near Fort Lauderdale.
“Our community is pretty safe,” said Cohen, who lives in Toronto. “We’re not going to look for large crowds. We’re not running to the bars and the restaurants.”
Even so, Cohen said COVID-19 coverage is a game changer because he and his wife would never consider heading south if they couldn’t purchase it.
“Why take the risk?” he said. “I like a complete package to know I’m looked after.”
Cases ‘going up again’
But not all eager travellers will be swayed by COVID-19 coverage.
Avid international traveller Suzanne Chojnacki said she and her husband will stay put for now because they still have many concerns — such as getting stuck abroad if the country they’re visiting suddenly closes its borders.
“The [COVID-19 case] numbers are going up again,” said Chojnacki who lives in Richmond Hill, Ont. “So it’s really not a good time to think about going away — for us.”
Current plans offering travellers COVID-19 coverage don’t include compensation if a customer cancels a trip due to the pandemic. Firestone said that’s because cancellation insurance typically covers unexpected mishaps, not a “known” issue such as the coronavirus.
“It’s just so known, it’s not even funny.”
Moderna gets 30000 patients for final stage of vaccine trial – BNN
Moderna Inc. has completed enrollment of its 30,000 participants in its final-stage COVID-19 trial, while more than 25,000 volunteers have received their second shot.
The announcement on Thursday is another indication that vaccine trials are moving into their home stretch. Moderna has said it could get an initial readout on whether the vaccine works by late November. The drugmaker is only slightly behind Pfizer Inc., which is working with German biotech BioNTech SE and expects results from its 44,000-person trial as soon as the end of this month.
Moderna shares rose as much as 4.4 per cent on Thursday morning in New York. This year, the stock has more than tripled in value.
Moderna had slowed trial enrollment in September in order to recruit more minorities, a key goal of U.S. health officials. Overall, 37 per cent of volunteers in the trial come from communities of color, the company said. Also, 42 per cent of are at high risk of developing severe cases of Covid-19, either because they are 65 or older or have pre-existing conditions.
Both Moderna and Pfizer say they won’t submit for an emergency-use authorization until they have collected two months of safety data on the participants. That means that even if Pfizer gets positive initial results this month, it won’t submit for an emergency authorization until after it gets the safety results in the third week of November.
Injunction against First Nations land reclamation camp sparks skirmish with police – CBC.ca
Blazing wooden pallets and tires blocked one side of a street leading into a southern Ontario community on Thursday, after a skirmish between police and members of a First Nation land reclamation camp.
The confrontation in Caledonia, Ont., came hours after a judge granted a permanent injunction against the camp’s presence, which has stopped construction of a subdivision.
A electrical power pole was also set on fire by members of the Six Nations of the Grand River.
People at the blockade said officers with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) used a Taser on one person and fired at least one rubber bullet.
The OPP said police cruisers parked on the street were “heavily damaged” by the protest and that officers responded with “appropriate non-lethal force.” There were no injuries and an investigation is underway, the force said on Twitter. Several cruisers had been used to create a buffer zone between the burning blockade and the public.
Camp spokesperson Skyler Williams said the police ignited the situation.
“It’s another example of the OPP coming in here with violent acts of aggression against people that are just occupying their traditional territory. I think all of us are quite sick of it,” he said.
WATCH | An initial confrontation at the scene:
Williams said the blockade would last until the people decide it should end.
“As long as they want to keep pulling guns on our people, as long as the OPP wants to keep committing these acts of violence toward us,” he said.
“Now we have barricades up and people across the country talking about coming here to support what’s going on. I lay this at the feet of the OPP for continuing these violent tactics of peaceful occupiers of their own territory.”
Behind the buffer zone created by OPP cruisers, a group of local residents gathered, watching the smoke billow into the air as evening fell.
Lewis Walker, from Caledonia, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to step in and deal with this long-running conflict.
“Why is the conflict is still going on?” said Walker.
“Deep down inside, this is a federal issue, and we’re tired of it … bring that guy down here.”
Earlier, Ontario Superior Court Justice R.J. Harper granted the injunction sought by Foxgate Development and Haldimand County, the municipality that oversees Caledonia, after removing Williams from the proceedings.
Harper, who insisted that Williams was the leader of the effort, said he showed “contempt” for the court by refusing to obey the previous, temporary injunctions, and by insisting the Cayuga, Ont., courtroom was part of the “colonial” court system.
Harper said the court must acknowledge the “abuses that have been put upon the Aboriginal community.”
However, he added, “claims and grievances in our society … must be done respectfully, must be done in compliance with the orders.”
Members from Six Nations of the Grand River, which sits next to Caledonia about 22 kilometres south of Hamilton, set up the camp in July to stop the construction of the McKenzie Meadows development.
The camp, dubbed 1492 Land Back Lane, was raided by the OPP on Aug. 5, triggering a day of road and railway blockades. Demonstrators set tires ablaze and threw rocks and police fired rubber bullets.
A senior OPP officer said, in an affidavit filed as part of the injunction, that a second enforcement operation could trigger a stronger reaction that could see railways, bridges and power stations “attacked and damaged in retaliation.” The affidavit also said infrastructure could be targeted in other parts of the country.
Call for chief to step in
Six Nations member Gowenetoh said she wants to see elected council Chief Mark Hill take a stronger role in the evolving situation and approach the traditional government, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, to find a solution.
“He hears our cries,” she said. “He could rectify this. All he needs to do is go knock on the Confederacy door and say, ‘I’m willing to help us get our lands back.'”
The Six Nations members of the reclamation camp have historical records they say show that the land the development sits on was sold by a squatter to a settler who then received a land patent from the colonial authorities in 1853.
The property is part of the Haldimand Tract granted to Six Nations of the Grand River in 1784 for allying with the British during the American Revolution. The granted land encompassed 10 kilometres on both sides of the 280-kilometre Grand River which runs through southern Ontario and into Lake Erie. Six Nations now has less than five per cent of its original lands.
The Six Nations elected council has stated that, according to Ontario court decisions, there was no requirement for a private entity like a developer to accommodate Six Nations for developing lands that were taken illegally in the 1800s. Yet, the council said, Foxgate had transferred 17 hectares of land and $352,000 to Six Nations for accommodation.
Foxgate never consulted with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, the traditional Six Nations government, before commencing its project. The Confederacy Chiefs Council has supported 1492 Land Back Lane and deems the property to be in a red zone of land over which it contests title.
The Six Nations elected council has an ongoing court case, filed in 1995, against Ottawa and Ontario over lost lands. It is scheduled to go to trial in 2022.
The Six Nations elected council did not respond to a request for comment.
The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council could not be reached for comment.
Haldimand County Mayor Ken Hewitt said the blame fell on the federal government for allowing the situation to fester for decades.
“The federal government has a huge role to play,” he said.
“It has abdicated its duties over the years in giving the people of Six Nations a platform for them to voice their concerns and push those concerns through a process. That is why we are here today.”
Hewitt said if Ottawa stepped in to negotiate, it may create a path away from what the OPP says will lead to conflict.
“I would hope there is enough respect between the two communities and ties between the two communities that we can find a better way to bring this to the front of the federal government,” he said.
Study shows many hospital-owned restaurants, including those in Alberta, operate at a loss – CTV Toronto
While Alberta Health Services (AHS) is looking for a company to take over the rest of its laundry services, new data shows many restaurants and cafeterias in Alberta hospitals have been operating millions in the red for years.
AHS announced a request for proposal (RFP) from third-party providers to take over the process of cleaning the massive quantity of linens, towels and other products Alberta’s hospitals use each day.
The province announced it was taking the step toward privatizing many of the services currently offered at Alberta hospitals earlier this month.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the RFP will allow the health-care system to discover savings to benefit Albertans.
“By reinvesting savings from initiatives such as contracting out laundry services into the health system, we can improve patient care and ensure Albertans are provided with the best possible health care,” he said in a release Friday.
AHS says more than two-thirds of its laundry services are already provided through a third party, including all the laundry services in the city of Calgary and Edmonton.
It says the transition will save more than $38 million that could be used in other areas to support patient care.
An estimated 428 full-time, part-time and casual employees will be impacted by the change.
“AHS is committed to working with them and their unions throughout this process. AHS anticipates there will be some opportunities for employment with the new vendor(s),” officials say.
HOSPITAL-RUN RESTAURANTS LOST MILLIONS
One of the other areas identified by the health minister’s office as a potential for cost savings was the hospital-run cafeteria services and restaurants.
Data, released earlier this week by SecondStreet.org, shows that many of Alberta’s commercial food locations that operate inside of hospitals posted losses.
The highest losses in 2017/18 and 2018/19, the two years that the organization looked at for its study, were both at the University of Alberta’s main hospital cafeteria.
The main findings of SecondStreet’s study indicate that if hospitals can’t break-even on cafeterias and food kiosks, private companies should take them over.
“Several hospitals in Canada have done just that and they’ve been able to turn losses into gains and focus more on helping patients,” said SecondStreet.org president Colin Craig. “Cooks don’t do surgery, and health care administrators aren’t restaurant managers – and it shows.”
‘FINDINGS FIT WITH THE EVIDENCE’
The province says the data compiled by SecondStreet.org fall in line with what it found during its own research, including the MacKinnon report and the recent AHS review.
“The SecondStreet.org findings fit with the evidence,” said Steve Buick, press secretary for Health Minister Tyler Shandro. “We need to find efficiencies in the health system to pay for more services for patients, while ensuring Albertans are protected from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“AHS will contract non-frontline services to independent contractors that can operate more effectively than government. That includes laundry, lab tests, housekeeping, and food services. Contracting of food services will move forward in 2021.”
Buick adds some services at Alberta hospitals are already successfully contracted out to third party companies.
“Nearly 70 per cent of laundry services province-wide, and 73 per cent of community lab tests in Edmonton and northern Alberta.”
He also emphasized that the province’s plans will not necessarily mean any net loss of employment.
“In fact, many staff will simply do the same job for a different employer. Any reductions will be managed through attrition as much as possible.”
AHS says the RFP process for a potential vendor for laundry services could take approximately four months. Implementation would depend on the company chosen to take over the services.
CTV News has reached out for any details on RFPs for restaurants, housekeeping and lab services, the other areas identified for reorganization by Minister Shandro’s office.
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