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A man pushes a baggage cart at Toronto Pearson International Airport, on June 23, 2020.Carlos Osorio/Reuters

Canada’s largest insurer, Manulife Financial Corp. , has increased out-of-country medical coverage for COVID-19 for travellers who are fully vaccinated.

The insurer is one of the first travel insurers to make changes to its existing pandemic travel plan policy – which launched last September – by increasing emergency medical coverage for COVID-19 and related complications to $5-million from $1-million for people who have received a full course of an immunization that is authorized by Health Canada.

The changes came into effect last Friday and were announced in a memo sent to travel agents.

As well, fully vaccinated travellers, as of the same date, will continue to receive quarantine expenses of up to $150 a day for a maximum of 14 days should they test positive for COVID-19 while abroad. For individuals who are not fully vaccinated, the quarantine benefit will no longer be available.

“Manulife understands that some Canadians have family, business and other important reasons for travelling,” Sean Pasternak, a spokesman for Manulife, wrote in an e-mail. “Today, more than ever before, travellers need specialized coverage that helps protect them in the event they fall ill due to COVID-19.”

Martin Firestone, president of Travel Secure Inc. and an insurance broker in travel medical coverage, said the coverage is a breakthrough for a travel industry that has been stalled since the onset of the pandemic more than 14 months ago.

“No one has given any kind of recognition – including our government – at any sort of level that the double vaccination is going to open the door for both travellers and governments to feel more secure about international travel,” Mr. Firestone said.

At the same time, Manulife has updated its policy for cruise bookings to provide $5-million of coverage, including expenses, related to COVID-19 for clients who are fully vaccinated as long as the Level 4 federal government advisory to “avoid all cruise line travel” is removed.

Cruise travel coverage for medical emergencies, including COVID-19, will be excluded while the Level 4 advisory is in place.

The update means that while land vacations will still include $1-million of COVID-19 coverage for unvaccinated travellers, there is no COVID-19 coverage for travellers on a cruise who have not been fully vaccinated.

“This is going to be huge for the cruise industry to know there is a product that will cover you – and at significant coverage levels,” Mr. Firestone said.

Proof of vaccination will be required at the time of a claim, which Mr. Firestone said unfortunately leaves a lot of uncertainty when the government has not yet developed a universal vaccination certificate.

“Telling a client they have $5-million of coverage only to find out during a claim they are not able to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated would drop them down to a $1-million limit – that has to be communicated very clearly to clients prior to them travelling,” Mr. Firestone said. “It would be better to be approved for the coverage at the time of purchase.”

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