Traveling during Omicron? Canadians who tested positive for COVID-19 abroad urge caution – National

If Amy Zheng could go back in time, she’d do things differently, she says.

The 28-year-old Toronto resident and her boyfriend Calvin Chan, 29, had recently been double-vaccinated against COVID-19 and booked an all-inclusive vacation to a resort in Holguín, Cuba, in May 2021. Their departure date was December 10. less than a week before the Canadian government issued an advisory against non-essential travel abroad.

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“If I could go back and give myself a glimpse of what I was getting into, I would have canceled 100 percent. It wasn’t worth the stress,” Zheng told Global News in an interview.

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COVID-19: How the Omicron Variant Could Affect Your Travel Plans – November 30, 2021

She, like many Canadians who flew to sunny destinations during the Omicron wave, tested positive abroad and paid for it financially and emotionally. The risk calculation for flying south has changed because of the infectiousness of the Omicron variant and because different jurisdictions have their own rules, travel industry experts say.

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The day before their scheduled flight home, Zheng says a member of the hotel staff came to their room and told them she had tested positive for COVID-19. Chan, with whom she shared a bed and spent the entire trip, was negative.

Amy Zheng got a positive result on her pre-flight COVID-19 PCR test while vacationing in Cuba with boyfriend Calvin Chan.

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He flew back to Canada on their original return date so that his job wouldn’t be affected and to care for their dogs.

Despite her request for a new test, Zheng was not given a second PCR test for another five days, which is considered more accurate than a rapid antigen test. She spent that time in a “quarantine hotel,” which was decidedly less luxurious than the resort where they’d spent most of the week. Zheng says drinking water was limited, there was no running hot water and the food was “indigestible”.

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“I felt like I was wasting away and I was having an hourly anxiety attack where I collapsed,” she says.

Zheng came out of self-isolation with a $588 bill for her quarantine accommodation, medical services and second PCR test, which came back negative.

The trip was booked through Sunwing, which Zheng says gave them “the detour” and it’s unclear whether their travel insurance, purchased from a Canadian provider, will cover these additional costs.

Sunwing did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Global News.

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similar situations

Zheng’s experience parallels what happened to Toronto resident Cindy Norton, who flew to Holguín on Dec. 2 for an all-inclusive vacation at another resort, also booked through Sunwing. Norton organized a group of 15 close friends and family to honor her late mother, who passed away in May.

“Her favorite place was Cuba,” Norton told Global News. “We decided to scatter some ashes on the beach and have seven days to recoup her and give her the best goodbye we could.”

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The Norton family (pictured left) on a recent trip to Cuba in honor of the late Gail Joanne Norton (pictured right).

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The memorial trip took a turn for the worse when Norton’s partner, who has requested that his identity be kept private for fear of reprisal at work, was told he had tested positive for COVID-19 during his pre-flight PCR exam.

Norton says he had no symptoms and was the only member of their group of 15 to test positive.

“It’s scary to see how many people come back with the same story,” she says.

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Travel confusion amid wave of Omicron variants

Travel confusion amid the wave of Omicron variants – December 22, 2021

Travel discussion forums and Facebook groups reveal a recent increase in the number of people talking about similar problems, headaches and out-of-pocket costs as a result of a positive COVID-19 PCR test abroad.

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The Omicron Factor

A number of airlines have recently announced plans to cut some of their scheduled flights during the Omicron Gulf, further complicating travel plans for Canadians.

For example, Air Canada said on Wednesday it would reduce flights to sunny destinations from January 24 to April 30 “in light of the current pandemic context.”

Richard Vanderlubbe, president of and the president of the Canadian Travel Agencies association, tells Global News that while he hasn’t noticed a “major spike” in the number of Canadian travelers testing positive abroad, the airline’s move has not. surprising him.

“It’s to be expected given Omicron’s portability,” says Vanderlubbe.

His main advice to travelers is to purchase COVID-19 insurance once you arrive at your destination, which should cover additional costs, as insurance purchased in Canada may be affected by the federal advice against non-essential travel. .

“It’s important to deal with a travel agent because things change,” says Vanderlubbe. “It’s not just a matter of searching online, finding the lowest rate and booking. There’s a lot of things to think about now.”

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Understand the rules and the risks

Lesley Keyter of Calgary, who runs The Travel Lady Agency, which she founded 26 years ago, says everyone should make their own personal risk assessment to determine whether or not they are currently traveling.

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Factors to consider include the age, health and vaccination status of all members of the tour group (children four years and under are not eligible for vaccination). And even then, travelers should have a clear idea of ​​what could happen if they test positive just before or during their vacation.

“It happens even when you get a boost,” Keyter says. “It’s something that could potentially ruin your vacation.”

To return to Canada, travelers five years and older must provide proof of vaccination and a COVID-19 negative molecular test result or a previous positive test result between 14 and 180 days prior to arrival.

While most resorts offer PCR testing, either in-house or through a third party, it is up to travelers to ensure they understand the procedure and additional costs associated with this preflight requirement.

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Keyter says emergency planning means understanding exactly what the rules are at your destination, as they can differ depending on your region, resort or cruise.

Since her return to Canada, Zheng has used social media, including TikTok, Facebook and Instagram, to tell people about her experience. This has left her open to the judgment of strangers online who have told her that her choices led to her predicament. Still, she hopes her ordeal can serve as a cautionary tale.

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“I brought this out because I want to give people a warning. I know so many people have travel plans,” Zheng says. “If I help one person not go through the same situation, I’m glad I shared my story.”

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