Coronavirus travel restrictions are being imposed across the world’s borders, making travel plans challenging for everyone. The rules have been a moving target for months, leaving travelers confused and frustrated.
Whether you’re thinking of traveling right now or possibly in the future, here’s what you need to know about the COVID-19 travel restrictions worldwide.
1. COVID-19 has affected travel between the U.S. and Canada
Normally, United States citizens and residents can freely travel to Canada and vice versa without issue. Under the COVID-19 restrictions, almost all travel between these two countries has been banned. Non-essential travel is prohibited.
There is an exception for any foreign national traveling to Canada to visit immediate family members. However, travelers must not have tested positive for COVID-19 and must exhibit no symptoms. Upon arrival, travelers must quarantine for fourteen days. All regular documentation rules still apply for entry into Canada.
If you’re not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and you want to visit an immediate family member in Canada, you’ll still need a visa or an eTA. Traveling to Canada on an eTA is an easy alternative to getting a visa. Getting an eTA is cheaper and faster than a visa or Temporary Residence Permit.
If you’re a U.S. citizen, you don’t need a visa to enter Canada by land or sea, but you will need a passport to enter Canada by air. When traveling by land or sea, you will need a government-issued photo ID like a driver’s license and proof of U.S. citizenship like a birth certificate or a certificate of citizenship.
2. HIPAA and the ADA do not exempt anyone from mask mandates
There is a misconception that HIPAA and the ADA allow for anyone with certain medical conditions to be exempt from being required to wear a face mask. While there are certainly exemptions to the mask mandates, mask exemptions aren’t covered by HIPAA or the ADA.
Why HIPAA doesn’t apply to mask exemptions
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires healthcare providers to keep your health data private. When you walk into a grocery store without a mask and a clerk asks you to verify why you aren’t wearing a mask, HIPAA isn’t applicable since you’re not interacting with a healthcare provider. If you don’t disclose your condition for verification, they can legally make you put on a mask or leave the store.
Why the ADA doesn’t apply to mask exemptions
The Americans with Disabilities Act is what prevents a grocery store clerk from asking you to disclose the nature of your disability that requires you to have a service dog. However, that clerk is allowed to ask what specific tasks your service dog is trained to perform. In many cases, answering that question will disclose your medical condition. For example, they’ll know someone is diabetic if they say their service dog is trained to detect high blood sugar. However, that’s perfectly legal.
“No mask, no entry” rules are legal even when you are exempt
When it comes to COVID-19 mask requirements, a person with lung disease, for example, has a valid exemption to the mask mandate. However, despite being exempt from the mask mandate, it’s up to stores to let that person inside without a mask.
If you have a genuine medical condition that exempts you from wearing a mask, businesses are legally allowed to bar you from entering. They are required to provide you with a reasonable accommodation as long as the accommodation doesn’t create an undue hardship on the business. For instance, a grocery store might offer to have someone shop for an exempt customer.
3. Airlines can require medical documentation for mask exemptions
If you’re genuinely exempt from the mask mandate, you can board a plane without a mask, but you may be required to provide valid medical documentation beforehand. If you’re traveling by air during the COVID-19 pandemic, make sure you call the airline ahead of time to find out what documentation you need to provide.
Airline regulations are constantly changing, so check airline policies periodically and before leaving to catch your flight to make sure you’re covered.
Play it safe and follow the rules
It’s tempting to try your luck by getting around the latest COVID-19 restrictions, but don’t be surprised when you’re met with opposition and possibly anger from other people around you. Don’t be the reason a pilot has to ground a flight or a ferry has to turn around. If you’re going to travel, your best bet is to play it safe and follow the rules to keep everyone safe and happy.