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Air Canada's COVID-19 travel coverage not in line with health guidelines: epidemiologist

Last Updated Aug 31, 2020 at 8:20 pm EDT

WINNIPEG – In an effort to get more people traveling, a major Canadian airline says it will now cover emergency medical and quarantine expenses if you get COVID-19 during your vacation.

Air Canada Vacations announced Monday that a COVID-19 assistance plan designed to cover a range of medical and quarantine expenses for those who contract coronavirus during travel will be offered free to all eligible travelers starting Sept. 4.

But an epidemiologist says this type of vacation coverage sits at odds with what Canadian leadership and public health officials are saying about flattening the curve.

“The last thing we want to do is be sick, to be in the hospital, or put someone we care about in that situation because we are enticed by messaging about a bonus if I go… or a type of financial compensation,” said Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist and founder of EPI Research.

A recent Angus Reid poll split Canadians into three main categories relating to COVID-19 health and safety compliance.

Results show 47 per cent of people were labeled “infection fighters”–people who follow COVID-19 safety protocols diligently. A little more than a third are inconsistent when it comes to following health guidelines, which made them strict on hygiene but loose on travel.

Nearly 20 per cent were “cynical spreaders”–those who disregard most, if not all, COVID-19 safety precautions.

A recent Angus Reid poll split Canadians into three main categories relating to COVID-19 health and safety compliance. (CREDIT: Angus Reid Institute)

Carr says the majority of cynical spreaders were young people, who are in the same age group who are statistically more likely to go on vacation right now.

“There are really important things to look at when you consider traveling anywhere, and really it’s not about the aircraft itself, its all of the other environmental factors,” said Carr, who says if you are traveling, consider the differences between the Canadian health care system vs the location you are planning to visit.

Before you book, ask yourself questions like what are the rates of viral infections and spread in the area? Does that region or community have other existing health care impacts currently putting demand on hospitals? And what are quarantine protocols and health policies in a specific region if you do find yourself testing positive for the virus while out of the country?

“It’s unfortunate and it will be confusing, particularly for that group that has decided they know it all and they are going to engage in these risky behaviors.”