Now that the U.S. requires visitors and returning residents to provide proof of negative COVID-19 test results in order to enter the country, international travel has become more complicated and uncertain. Not only does this dictate that leaving the country will require that you locate approved testing sites at your destination, which can provide documented results within 72 hours of your return flight, it also means you’ll need to be prepared for an extended stay, more testing and perhaps medical treatment, should you test positive while abroad.
Most people probably assume that they’ll test negative and proceed as planned onto their return flight, especially if they’ve been cautious during their travels, but there is no guarantee that things will go so smoothly. A positive test result, even a false one, would strand someone overseas anywhere from days to weeks, until they’re finally able to obtain a negative test result. Experts are advising that American international travelers have a contingency plan in place before leaving the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State Department officials have stated that anyone attempting to board a flight to the U.S. without qualifying negative test results will be denied. Martin Cetron, the CDC’s global migration and quarantine director, told The Washington Post that this could leave Americans “stuck in an extended way” overseas. Both for those who test positive and are required to quarantine in a foreign country, and those who find themselves in areas where it’s difficult to secure proper testing and/or another flight home.
Unfortunately, the State Department has also declared that it won’t offer medical assistance to Americans abroad who’ve tested positive, due to the department’s “limited medical resources” outside of the country. That means you can’t turn to the U.S. Embassy in your destination country for help if you become sick. The extent of its assistance is providing a directory of testing sites available in every country.
Travel advisors are counseling their clients to look into purchasing third-party travel insurance policies designed to cover the expense of up to 14 days of quarantining in their destination if their tests were to come up positive, plus the cost of additional testing and potential medical expenses, should they get really sick while abroad. Two weeks of extended hotel stays alone could cost guests thousands of dollars.
Christine Sikes, an executive vice president for travel agent service Direct Travel, told The Washington Post that travelers should talk directly with travel insurance providers to determine what type of coverage they may need, noting that the policy costs will factor in the purchaser’s age, destination and desired inclusions. “You can still travel safely. You just need to plan and know what the ramifications are if you test positive,” Sikes said. “Hopefully no one does, but if they do, then they must have a plan.”
Some hotel brands are incentivizing travel by offering discounted or even free extended accommodations for guests who test positive. Karisma Hotels & Resorts in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic offer free on-site antigen testing and promises to provide quarantine accommodations free of charge, “until a doctor certifies clearance for travel with a negative test result for a period not to exceed 14 nights.”
Marival Resorts and the Palmaia, The House of Aia hotel in Mexico are offering a similar arrangement for COVID-positive guests, but free quarantine stays and complimentary testing are far from being the norm. Travelers should research their intended hotel’s COVID-related policies and provisions prior to their arrival.
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