What happens when travelers test positive for covid-19 while travelling?

(CNN) — Without a doubt, going on vacation has become much more complicated because of covid-19.

After more than a year of the pandemic, border restrictions are constantly changing as new variants emerge, while PCR and antigen testing have become part of travel.

Many countries require travelers to present negative covid test results upon entry, regardless of their vaccination status, and in some cases follow-up testing is done, while some destinations, including the United States, require people to present a negative test result before their return trip. .

But what if the result is positive after arriving at a new destination?

This is a situation many travelers have found themselves in over the past year.

In August, South Carolina couple April DeMuth and Warren Watson (pictured above) were preparing to return to the US after a two-week trip to Greece when a positive COVID-19 test result thwarted their plans . .

“We were tested in the morning,” says DeMuth. “So we were at the airport, the officer stopped us to check our bags and we looked at the test results. [en nuestros teléfonos]. It was then that he [Watson] he said it”.

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

As Greece allows fully vaccinated travelers to enter without restrictions, the couple, who are vaccinated, did not have to undergo PCR tests before the trip. However, they had to present negative covid-19 test results in order to return home.

positive on arrival

Shortly after receiving the results, DeMuth and Watson received a call from local authorities and their transfer to a quarantine hotel provided by the Greek government was quickly arranged.

Although most travel insurance covers quarantine-related expenses, the couple had not taken out insurance for their vacation.

“We were very lucky that Greece had government-paid quarantine hotels,” says Watson, who had suffered mild Covid symptoms in the days before the positive test result.

“They gave us three meals a day. They treated us very well and it didn’t cost us anything. I know in other countries it’s quite expensive.”

Fortunately, Watson’s symptoms remained mild while he was in quarantine (DeMuth never tested positive) and he tested negative after taking the next PCR test. The couple were able to return home seven days later without incurring additional costs.

“Now I would never travel without [el seguro]said DeMuth. “We were lucky to be in a country that was very kind to what they were doing, but we never wanted to depend on that.”

Undoubtedly, things could have been very different if they had chosen to spend the holidays in another destination. For example, visitors to Italy must pay their own quarantine fees in advance if they test positive upon arrival.

“Travel insurance with covid-19 quarantine coverage is designed to help cover accommodation and living expenses you may incur if you test positive for covid while on vacation,” says Narendra Khatri, President and CEO. direction to CNN Travel of Insubbuy, which offers international travel medical insurance through several US-based companies.

“Coverage is entirely dependent on the policy you choose. Most plans offer a minimum of $2,000 for quarantine, room and board, and trip interruption up to 100% of the cost.”

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

Although Watson didn’t need any medical treatment while in Greece and made a full recovery, others weren’t so lucky.

expensive experience

Covac Global transports travelers who test positive for covid-19 during their holidays by air ambulance. Courtesy of Covac Global

In 2020, Gloria and José 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.

Unfortunately, José’s health continued to deteriorate, and he was airlifted to Naval Medical Center La Jolla, where he died of a lung infection on December 28.

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

Although such cases are not necessarily the most common, Khatri advises travelers to consider the worst costs when choosing a travel insurance policy.

“Will the US$2,000 cover accommodation costs during the entire quarantine in the destination country?” he asks. “Will a $50,000 maximum policy be enough if you need a helicopter ride from an island to the nearest emergency room?”

“If there’s a chance it won’t, you’re better off buying a policy that can provide more coverage. It’s far better to spend a little more now on insurance than to have to deal with huge medical or hotel bills in a distant destination.”

Destinations such as the Bahamas and Costa Rica have even stipulated that all visitors must have specific coronavirus-related coverage as a condition of entry.

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

“If you test positive for covid or have another medical condition on a Thursday while flying, but your coverage doesn’t start until you land on Friday, your insurance won’t cover it,” he explains.

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

But while travel insurance can help ensure that travelers who test positive for Covid avoid paying additional costs for quarantine or medical treatment, most have no choice but to stay where they are. find until they can test negative for Covid.19.

medical evacuation

Covac Global evacuated travelers from destinations such as Uganda, the Bahamas and the 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 transported home via a medically certified ambulance, one of the “extremely limited” in which a traveler ill with covid-19 is allowed to return to the United States.

The service, which is described as “the first and only fully insured membership programme”, is available to members who have received a positive covid test result after arriving at their destination and who themselves have at least one symptom. self-reported.

Membership fees start at US$675 for 15 days of coverage, while annual membership costs US$2,500.

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

Most of Covac Global’s evacuations are hotel-to-home, and the company has been called to places like Uganda, the Bahamas and the Maldives to pick up travellers.

“We picked people up 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,” says Thompson. “So we’ll pick you up wherever you are. If you can do it, 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-19 positive patient is not an easy task, especially if they are in a remote location or in a country plagued by civil unrest.

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

“In Ethiopia there was a lot of civil unrest [en ese momento]so we had to involve our security teams to ensure everyone entered the country safely.”

When to get tested

Medjet has introduced the provision of medical transport for members hospitalized with covid-19.
Courtesy of MedJet

John Gobbels, chief operating officer of medical evacuation company Medjet, says the possibility of testing positive for COVID-19 and requiring hospitalization when there are no beds available on units intensive care is one of their members’ biggest concerns, along with being “stuck” in a hospital miles away from their friends and family.

Medjet added air medical transportation for travelers hospitalized with covid-19 to its members in October 2020.

“We add this benefit to the risk of our costs,” says Gobbels. “Transportation only for a positive test is not a benefit of membership, but can be arranged at a cost to the member.”

But what can travelers do to be better prepared for the possibility of testing positive for COVID-19 while on vacation?

Gobbels advises travelers to bring “approved” brand COVID test kits so they can get tested early.

“Don’t wait for the ’72 hour notice’ window to get tested,” he says. “You’ll have to meet this requirement, but knowing in advance that you can fail will give you more time to come up with a plan B.”

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

Unfortunately, with Covid cases still 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 to come.

“I think it’s something we’re going to have to live with now,” admits Thompson. “Just like after 9/11, people added security evacuation to their travel insurance or membership because that’s the world we live in now.”

“I think covid-19 evacuation blanket is going to be a regular thing when travelling.”

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