What happens when travelers test positive for Covid on vacation?

(CNN) – It is undeniable that going on vacation has become much more complicated because of the Covid-19.

Well over a year after the start of the pandemic, border restrictions are constantly changing as new variants emerge, while PCR and antigen testing are now a part of the journey.

Many countries require travelers to produce negative Covid test results on entry, regardless of their vaccination status, and in some cases, take follow-up tests, while some destinations, including the United States, require that people produce a negative test result before their return trip.

But what if you test positive after arriving in a new destination?

This is a difficult situation that a number of travelers have found themselves in over the past year.

In August, South Carolina couple April DeMuth and Warren Watson (top photo) were preparing to return to the United States after a two-week trip to Greece when a positive Covid test result brought them to a halt.

“We did the test in the morning,” says DeMuth. “So we are at the airport, the agent stops us so that we can check in our luggage and we collect our test results. [on our phones]. It was then that he [Watson] say it.”

Just hours before boarding their scheduled flight back to the United States, they discovered that Watson had tested positive for Covid-19.

As Greece allows fully vaccinated travelers to enter without restrictions, the couple, both vaccinated, were not required to undergo PCR testing before travel. However, they had to provide negative Covid test results to return home.

Positive on arrival

Shortly after receiving the results, DeMuth and Watson received a call from Greek authorities and arrangements were quickly made to transfer them to a quarantine hotel provided by the Greek government.

Although most travel insurance policies cover quarantine costs, the couple had not purchased insurance for their vacation.

“We were very lucky that Greece had quarantine hotels that the government pays for,” said Watson, who had shown mild symptoms of Covid in the days leading up to a positive Covid result.

“They delivered us three meals a day. We were treated very well and it cost us nothing. I know in other countries it’s quite expensive.”

Fortunately, Watson’s symptoms continued to be mild during his quarantine (DeMuth never tested positive) and he tested negative after taking his next PCR test. The couple were able to return home seven days later without incurring any additional costs.

“I would never travel without [insurance] now, ”DeMuth says.“ We were just lucky to be in a country that was very gracious with what they do, but we would never want to rely on that. ”

Things certainly could have been very different if they had chosen to vacation in another destination. For example, visitors to Italy are required to pay their own quarantine fees up front if they are positive after arrival.

“Travel Insurance with Covid-19 Quarantine Coverage is designed to help cover accommodation and lodging costs you may incur if you test positive for Covid while on vacation,” Narendra Khatri, President and CEO of Insubuy, which provides international travel medical insurance with various US-based companies, told CNN Travel.

“The amount of the benefit depends entirely on the policy you choose. Most plans provide a minimum of $ 2,000 in quarantine, lodging and lodging costs, and trip interruption up to 100% of the cost of the trip.

“If the traveler chooses, many policies offer the option to purchase additional coverage up to $ 7,000 to cover quarantine costs, and a trip interruption benefit of up to 150% of the cost of the trip. ”

While Watson did not need any medical treatment during his time in Greece and made a full recovery, others were not so fortunate.

Expensive experience

Covac Global is transporting travelers who have tested positive for Covid-19 to their vacation home by air ambulance.

Courtesy of Covac Global

In 2020, Gloria and Jose Arellano from California tested positive for Covid-19 after traveling to Mexico on vacation.

Although Gloria recovered, her husband’s condition worsened and he was admitted to a local hospital.

Sadly, Jose’s health continued to deteriorate and he was transported by air ambulance to Naval Medical Center in La Jolla, where he died of a lung infection on December 28.

The medical and transportation costs incurred during the process were enormous, and the family initiated a GoFundMe account to help with payments, as their insurance did not cover the full amount.

While cases like this aren’t necessarily typical, Khatri advises travelers to consider the costs they would incur in a worst-case scenario when choosing a travel insurance policy.

“Will $ 2,000 cover your accommodation costs for the duration of the quarantine in your destination country?” ” he asks.

“Will a maximum of $ 50,000 be enough if you need a helicopter tour from an island to the nearest emergency room?

“If there’s a chance it isn’t, you’d better buy a policy that can provide more coverage. destination.”

Destinations like the Bahamas and Costa Rica have gone so far as to stipulate that all visitors must have obtained specific coronavirus-related coverage before being allowed entry.

Khatri also stresses that travelers should make sure their insurance covers their entire trip.

“If you test positive for Covid or have some other medical issue on a Thursday while you are flying, but your coverage does not begin until you land on Friday, your insurance will not cover it,” he explains.

“It would be considered a pre-existing condition. Get insurance that covers you from the start to the end of the trip.”

But while travel insurance can help ensure that Covid-positive vacationers avoid paying additional fees for quarantine or medical treatment, most have no choice but to stay where they are until. that they can produce a negative Covid result.

Medical evacuation

Covac Global has evacuated travelers from destinations such as Uganda, Bahamas and Maldives.

Covac Global has evacuated travelers from destinations such as Uganda, Bahamas and Maldives.

Courtesy of Covac Global

However, Covac Global, a medical evacuation company launched in August 2020, offers a special program that allows travelers who test positive abroad to be brought home via a certified ambulance with medical staff – one of the “extremely limited” circumstances under which a traveler infected with Covid is permitted to re-enter the United States.

The service, which is described as “the first and only fully compensated membership program,” is available to members who tested positive for Covid after arriving at destination and who have at least one self-reported symptom .

Membership rates start at $ 675 for 15 days of coverage, while an annual subscription costs $ 2,500.

Founder Ross Thompson says the company is seeing a significant increase in membership month-to-month and the average age of its members is getting younger, with more professionals in their 40s choosing to enroll in the program. .

Most Covac Global evacuations are from hotel to home, and the company has been called in to places like Uganda, the Bahamas and the Maldives to pick up travelers.

“We have picked up people by speedboat from their overwater villas in the Maldives and from their hotel rooms on islands off the coast of Central America with a helicopter,” said Thompson. “Then we’ll pick you up from wherever you are. If you can get there, we can do it. And then we’ll take you home. Very few cases require us to take you to the hospital.”

But transporting a Covid-positive patient is no easy task, especially if they are based in a remote location or in a country where there is civil unrest.

“We did an evacuation not too long ago from Ethiopia,” says Thompson. “We had to get the permits in coordination with the Ethiopian government.

“There was a significant amount of civil unrest in Ethiopia [at the time] so we had to involve our security teams to make sure everyone entered the country safely. ”

Test time

Medjet introduced medical transport benefits for members hospitalized with Covid-19.

Medjet introduced medical transport benefits for members hospitalized with Covid-19.

Courtesy Medjet

John Gobbels, COO of the Medical Evacuation Company Medjet, says the possibility of testing positive for Covid-19 and requiring hospitalization in a destination where there are no intensive care beds available is one of the biggest concerns of its members, as well as of ‘being “stuck” in a hospital miles from friends and family.

Medjet added air medical transport for travelers hospitalized with Covid-19 to their membership in October 2020.

“We added this benefit at our own risk,” Gobbels explains. “Transportation for a simple positive test is not a benefit of membership, but can be arranged at the member’s sole expense.”

But what can travelers do to make sure they’re better prepared for the possibility of testing positive for Covid while on vacation?

Gobbels recommends that vacationers take home Covid test kits from ‘approved’ brands with them on vacation with them so they can test themselves early on.

“Don’t wait for the ’72 hours in advance ‘window to test yourself,” he says. “You’ll need to meet this requirement, but knowing early that you might fail will give you more time to make backup plans.

“And because there are sometimes false positives, if you are positive, immediately take another test.”

Unfortunately, as infections of Covid cases remain high in various parts of the world, the possibility of testing positive while on vacation is a reality that travelers will likely continue to face for some time.

“I think that’s something we’re going to have to live with now,” Thompson admits. “Just like after September 11, people added security evacuation to their travel insurance or travel subscriptions because that’s the world we live in now.

“I think the Covid-19 evacuation blanket is going to be commonplace when you travel.”

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