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'We're not gonna take a chance': travellers express concern as COVID-19 cases grow
Published Monday, March 2, 2020 7:40PM CST
WINNIPEG -- As the number of coronavirus cases grow around the globe, so do fears of the virus both at home and abroad.
On Monday, the Canadian Government issued a travel advisory for several regions in northern Italy, only the latest addition to a growing list of countries that have been hit the hardest. It’s causing concern for travellers in Winnipeg.
“Kind of a once-in-a-lifetime for us, so we’ll be disappointed for sure if we have to cancel,” said Ryan Heieie, who is set to travel with his family in June.
Heieie is scheduled to take off on a Mediterranean cruise leaving from South Hampton and going through Spain for 13 days. But as COVID-19 continues to spread – Heieie said he’s starting to worry.
“Today in fact we were just contacting our travel agent to see what insurance would cost, and see what some of the issues are with the cruise and the likeleyhood of being able to sale or fly,” said Heieie.
Winnipeg travel agent Cindy Gaudet said several of her clients will soon be heading on Mediterranean cruises – some to parts of Italy.
“Finishing in Rome, starting in Rome, we have clients,” said Gaudet. “That’s where the Mediterranean tends to start.”
She said so far no one has cancelled their trip, but she has had some clients express concern.
“We've had one client that shows precaution on where they're travelling,” said Gaudet. “They're going into Dubai and coming back through Athens, where the concerns are, are the countries actually giving the right numbers on where they're traveling to and that's the big thing.”
For now – Heieie said it’s a waiting game.
“We do have the ability to cancel the trip outright at the end of March, so if things don't clear up or it doesn’t look like it's going to workout then we'll have to make a decision.”
He hopes he won’t have to cancel his family vacation, but said safety comes first.
“We're not gonna take a chance, we certainly wouldn't go to China, we won't go somewhere that we think is unsafe.”
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND FOR TRAVEL INSURANCE
According to CAA there are many things to keep in mind when it comes to insurance while you travel.
In an email to CTV News, CAA Manitoba said:
“When it comes to travel medical insurance, if you decide to travel despite a travel advisory issued by Global Affairs Canada for your destination, you may not be covered by emergency medical insurance”
“If a Global Affairs Canada travel advisory to 'Avoid non-essential travel' or 'Avoid all travel' has been issued and your travel insurance was purchased prior to this advisory, you may cancel your trip before departure and use your insurance for reimbursement of non-refundable, pre-paid travel expenses. Check your policy for 'New and unexpected travel advisory from Global Affairs Canada' for more details.”
CAA also recommends getting in touch with your agent or your insurance company as coverage could vary.
PREPARING FOR THE OUTBREAK AT HOME
As the number of cases grow around the world, there are still no confirmed cases in Manitoba, but that isn't stopping some from taking extra precautions.
Jason Kindrachuk, an infectious disease specialist from the University of Manitoba who is studying COVID-19, said while the risk to Manitobans is low, it's important to stock up.
"Do you have enough food on hand, that you're able to at least get through some of that time period, without having to put yourself at risk, if there is a high amount of exposure in the community?" Kindrachuk said.
The threat of COVID-19 is highest for people who have underlying health conditions. That's why Pharmacist Carey Lai said it's critical to fill prescriptions.
"Whether it is for antibiotics, or cardiovascular, regular routine medication, they should have it on site, so they don't run too low," she said.
In a written statement to CTV News, the province said "Public Health officials are monitoring the emerging and rapidly evolving situation related to COVID-19. Manitoba Health, Seniors & Active Living and Shared Health are co-managing an incident management structure to ensure coordinated planning, preparation, mitigation and response."
The Manitoba Métis Federation said it's assembling a special task force to combat a possible outbreak, focusing on protecting elders who are at higher risk of contracting the virus.
And even the Winnipeg School Division has said its ramped up cleaning, make sure door knobs and washrooms are clean.
An while concerns over the virus rise, Public Health experts say the best defense is simple – wash your hands often.