Travel and COVID-19 - July 30, 2020
July 30, 2020 - 4 min. read
A travel-related headline that caught my eye this week was a Reuters article entitled “European air executives urge Canada to safely restore travel.” While anything on travel and Canada is relevant to someone working in the industry, the notion of “safely restoring travel” immediately piqued my interest. Although much of this week’s news chronicled the rise of COVID-19 in a number of countries, including the US and Brazil, Reuters reported that nearly a dozen European airlines and airports asked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to relax Canada’s travel restrictions; to “remove the blanket travel restrictions to travelers from countries whose successful control of COVID-19 has significantly reduced risk to Canada.”
Canada aside, there's definitely a case to be made for the easing of restrictions currently impeding international travel. After all, not all countries are seeing cases spike. New Zealand, Taiwan, and Iceland have been applauded for their efforts to contain the virus (Global News). And as for Canada, it’s argued that relaxing our borders will encourage reciprocity with countries who have similarly successfully controlled COVID-19, including countries in the EU and Switzerland. In addition to the economic benefits associated with welcoming travellers back in, easing restrictions is touted as an important step in cautiously resuming movement between important trading partners (Reuters).
Currently, Canadians actually can travel abroad because our government’s advisory is just that—advice—and not an order. Nevertheless, travellers leave Canada at their own risk. Global Affairs Canada said it's not planning any repatriation flights after July and, until the advisory is lifted, international travellers likely won't be able to purchase medical insurance that covers COVID-19-related illnesses (CBC).
Still, it’s interesting to learn that it’s not just other countries pressuring the Canadian government to loosen restrictions. Both airline trade group International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Canadian airlines WestJet and Air Canada have asked the government in Ottawa to relax air travel restrictions to certain countries in the hopes of offsetting the damages they've incurred as a result of the global health crisis. Last month, Air Canada’s CEO Calin Rovinescu argued for an approach to travel that acknowledges “safe corridors” or “travel bubbles” over the “blanket” travel restrictions applied in the early days of the virus (Financial Post).
Nevertheless, it can't be assumed that there are no risks associated with travel, even to countries considered "safe jurisdictions with...lower infection rates than Canada" (Reuters). As we wrote about last week, the most important step to take prior to deciding whether or not to travel is knowing and understanding the (numerous, significant, constantly-changing) risks.
Final thoughts: As with any discussion, there remain two sides to the question of whether or not to relax border restrictions, both for Canada and for other countries in similar positions. The juggling of economics vs. safety, of reciprocity vs. isolation, is no easy task…but we’ll continue to follow along as governments, businesses, and citizens offer guidance, suggestions, and pleas. Stay safe out there.