Testing positive for COVID-19 while abroad is unfortunately not uncommon, and even the best travel planners may be unsure of what to do if they test positive abroad.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Department of State, all air travelers re-entering the United States — vaccinated or unvaccinated — must provide proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within three calendar days of departure or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days. Travelers will not be allowed to board a flight entering the United States if they do not provide airline authorities the necessary documentation.
So, what do you do if you test positive in another country while traveling and cannot re-enter the United States? Let’s take a closer look at how travelers can plan ahead and what their options are if they cannot re-enter.
Consider Your Insurance Options
Forward planning for international travel is critical with coronavirus restrictions still in place. A few airlines offer insurance options that cover coronavirus-related expenses, such as Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, Japan Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and WestJet. Each airline’s insurance options generally provide coverage of medical expenses and quarantine costs. Keep in mind, major U.S. airlines including American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines do not explicitly offer coronavirus-related insurance options. It is best to review each airline and their insurance options before and after booking to see how their service may help.
Research Emergency Transport Companies
Covac Global, a newly launched company in spring 2020, transports people home if they have been diagnosed with coronavirus while traveling domestically or abroad. Ross Thompson, CEO of Covac Global, stated “evacuations are triggered when a traveler tests positive for COVID and exhibits at least one symptom of the disease, which can be self-reported.” Hospitalizations are not required. Once evacuated, Covac Global returns travelers to their home or to a local hospital, arranging flight doctors, and land/air ambulances as well.
However, travelers must register with Covac Global before beginning their trip, so it’s all about planning ahead! Covac Global memberships are available to residents of the United States and Canada and recently opened to all nationalities beginning in May. Rates start at $675 for 15 days of coverage, which can be used over 12 months, and benefits begin two weeks after signing up. The membership covers all destinations except for travelers on cruise ships or those who attended large-scale events. According to the CDC, “extremely limited” exemptions are allowed for emergency travel. Covac Global services fit within the CDC’s requirements and have already serviced several Americans. It is the only possible way for someone who is infected with COVID-19 to enter the United States.
Other transportation companies offer similar service, like travel risk management company Global Rescue, which evacuates travelers who require hospitalization from coronavirus or other medical concerns more than 100 miles from home. Global Rescue memberships are available to anyone, regardless of their country of citizenship. The company will evacuate travelers to hospitals in their home country. If interested in purchasing a membership, short-term memberships start at $119 for individuals and $199 for families (which includes a spouse and up to six dependents).
For those traveling within North America and Central America, MedJet, a medical transport company, will evacuate its members to a hospital near their home, if they are hospitalized 150 miles or more from their primary residence. MedJet memberships are only available to residents of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and cover worldwide repatriation. However, it is important to note, coronavirus-related assistance only applies for travel within the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, Bermuda and the Caribbean. MedJet memberships start around $99 for eight days of international and domestic travel coverage.
Comply With Local Requirements
It is important to consider every country and tourist destination has its own set of requirements. When a traveler tests positive, the CDC recommends the telehealth provider report positive test results to relevant public health authorities in the traveler’s location following local requirements. The telehealth providers are also advised to counsel the traveler on what they and their close contacts should do. This would include not traveling until they complete isolation (if infected) or quarantine (if exposed), per local requirements.
As mentioned, travelers will not be allowed to board a flight entering the United States if they do not provide a negative coronavirus test or proof of recovery from the virus. This means travelers who test positive while abroad will have to figure out their accommodations until they recover. Depending on the country, you may be required to quarantine in a government-mandated facility. Some countries and destinations will allow you to quarantine at a hotel, but you will most likely pay out of pocket (unless you purchased insurance to cover it beforehand). If caught in this situation, it is highly recommended travelers consult with nearby hotels and local authorities for all possible accommodation options. Travelers must quarantine until they receive a negative COVID-19 test result, and only then, can they begin the process of returning to the U.S.
As the old saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry. With the Delta variant spreading more rapidly and travel advisories re-entering the “Do Not Travel” level, we encourage all of our users to review COVID-19 insurance options and medical transportation memberships before traveling outside of the U.S.