UPDATED JULY 16, 2021: Barbados has updated its policies and now recognizes fully vaccinated travellers with mixed dose vaccines as fully vaccinated. For more details click here.
TORONTO — With eased travel restrictions now in place for fully-vaccinated Canadians, more bookings are coming in – and more questions.
And once again agents are on the front lines.
Much of the uncertainty right now is about travel and vaccinations.
Canada’s use of the AstraZeneca vaccine no doubt saved countless lives especially as the third wave peaked in April 2021.
But Canadians who got first doses of AstraZeneca and second doses of Pfizer or Moderna – following recommendations from the federal government – are now wondering if the mixed dose regime will impact their travel plans. Other Canadians have mixed-doses of Pfizer and Moderna.
Barbados’ Ministry of Health and Wellness, for example, currently categorizes travellers with mixed vaccines as unvaccinated. For now at least, any travellers to Barbados who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but with more than one type of vaccine, must follow the protocols for unvaccinated travellers. That includes a five-day quarantine upon arrival.
“As a tourism destination we are surely aware of how this stance would affect the vacation plans of Canadian travellers,” said Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., in response to a travel agent’s inquiry.
No doubt BTMI is just as eager as the travel agent – and her client – to see the Ministry’s decision on fully vaccinated travellers updated to include mixed doses. BTMI notes that with ever-changing COVID policies, information and protocols are likely to change. Regular and official updates can be found at barbadostravelprotocols.com.
Barbados has long been a favourite for sun and sand vacations. So have Jamaica and Cuba.
Mixed vaccinations won’t be a problem for Canadian travellers, says the Jamaica Tourist Board.
“Jamaica’s Ministry of Health will consider anyone who has received two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine to be fully vaccinated, regardless of whether they have received different brands,” the JTB tells Travelweek.
More information is at visitjamaica.com/travelauthorization.
Cuba meanwhile is not making any distinction between vaccinated or non-vaccinated travellers, says Nieves Ricardo with the Cuba Tourist Board.
“The country’s approach is that vaccinated travellers still can carry and transmit the virus, so the entry requirements are the same for vaccinated or non-vaccinated,” she says.
Currently Cuba waives the PCR test prior to entering Cuba, for Canadians traveling direct from Canada on Canadian flights. And there’s no quarantine if they go to an all-inclusive hotel. Guests can use all the facilities of the hotel, but for the first 24 hours they should stay at their booked hotels, wear a mask and social distance until they get the results of the free PCR test they receive at the Cuban airport upon arrival, says Ricardo.
The PCR test Canadians need to re-enter Canada is done right at Cuba’s hotels, at a cost of US$30.
While the vast majority of Canadians visiting Cuba stay at all-inclusive resorts, Ricardo notes that clients planning to stay at private homes, B&Bs or with Cuban families need to quarantine 6 days at specific government designated hotels, and take a Day 5 PCR test too, in addition to the on-arrival PCR test.
Even before the question of mixed doses came up, many AstraZeneca-vaccinated Canadians were expressing concerns that their vaccine might exclude them from certain destinations, notably the U.S., where AstraZeneca didn’t get FDA approval.
Last month Prime Minister Trudeau made assurances that AstraZeneca-vaccinated Canadians won’t face roadblocks. “We will definitely make sure that people who got two or one AstraZeneca dose will not be on disadvantage when they want to travel,” Trudeau said as he announced Canada’s 2-track system for proof of vaccination.
Everyone remembers the hand-wringing following reports last month that NYC’s ‘Springsteen on Broadway’ planned to turn away AstraZeneca-vaccinated theatre-goers. In a matter of hours, the show’s vaccination policy was updated to include AstraZeneca.
Agents are also hearing plenty of questions about unvaccinated kids and travel. For family vacations, the parents and teens may be double-dosed, but the younger family members – kids under the age of 12 – aren’t yet. The federal government’s guidance so far is that unvaccinated children arriving back in Canada must still quarantine at home for 14 days.
But what about unaccompanied minors (UMs)? Lesley Keyter, CEO and founder of Calgary’s The Travel Lady Agency, got that head-scratcher recently. “Someone wanted information on entry to Canada of an unaccompanied minor. Apparently this lady had called the airline, the airport and Border Services and no one could give her an answer,” said Keyter.
Keyter, who attended a recent ACTA webinar with presentations by the Public Health Agency of Canada, says a new ‘travel wizard’ tool from the federal government – users answer questions, and the tool provides answers about travel restrictions – could be a big help. The tool can be found at https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/wizard-start.
To read the full article click here for Travelweek’s July 15 edition.