Covac Global changes its COVID-19 evacuation membership policy amid growing demand for repatriation
In December, I wrote about Covac Global, a COVID-19 travel insurance membership program designed to get you home upon testing positive for COVID-19, without having to quarantine abroad.
Since then, the membership-based evacuation and repatriation company, founded in 2020 specifically to provide medical evacuations during the pandemic without a hospitalization requirement, has sometimes struggled to keep up with the demand of patients asking for evacuations during the omicron wave and its devastating impact on the holiday travel season.
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"In commercial travel we saw over 8,000 flights canceled for weather and crews getting COVID. Our air ambulances experienced the same difficulties over the holiday period," Covac Global CEO Ross Thompson told me via email. "Many of our aircrews were impacted by covid – causing us to scramble at the last minute to find new crews or providers to get to our members quickly. Weather in other areas meant that we had delays as well."
During this time period, Covac Global executed more than 52 evacuations via private air ambulance over the course of 12 days. These evacuations were for members running the gamut from those who experienced little or no symptoms to those who "required critical medical intervention."
Thompson confirmed some members experienced "mild delays" of one to three days, which he attributed in part to a "finite number of air ambulances."
There have been some reports of alleged issues experienced by a few clients who used Covac Global. No one was willing to go on the record.
Some users have complained online, including on Reddit and in the below thread on FlyerTalk, a popular online forum.
Thompson placed responsibility for the reported problems on the "many attempts at abuse of the system." In one case, Thompson said the company notified a member there would be a delay in getting them home over the holidays, and the member "announced this was unacceptable as [they] would miss a New Year’s Eve party then decided to cancel the evacuation as the symptoms suddenly cleared."
He also claimed an "unfortunate amount" of members "falsely" reported "observable symptoms in hopes of not having to spend a few inconvenient days at their choice of hotel."
Although Thompson declined to comment on specific allegations, the CEO said some delays in service or other limitations were due to "the restrictions of certain host countries" and the fluid nature of country-by-country COVID-19 regulations.
"Countries ... such as Italy, require by law, [that] we utilize isolation measures when departing their airspace. These measures are required by mandate and Covac Global must abide by these rules and regulations," he said. "Variants change rapidly as do local laws and COVID-19 regulations. We do not skirt the laws for any member no matter how inconvenienced they may be. All members are transported home safely and in the direct company of highly trained and caring medical professionals."
Covac recently changed the terms and conditions of its Global COVID-19 Evacuation and Repatriation service.
All members must now fulfill two requirements in order to trigger the COVID-19 evacuation service to avoid hospitalization.
The first new requirement is proof of a positive PCR test. The previous requirement was only to claim one self-reported symptom.
Additionally, both a "local attending qualified medical professional" and the Covac medical director must sign off on the decision to evacuate in the name of "medical prudence," as now outlined in the 2022 COVID-19 Evacuation Membership Services Agreement. Below is an agreement that Covac sent out to members before the updated language.
"Medically Prudent to Avoid Hospitalization — Determination by the local attending qualified medical professional and the COVAC Global medical director that member cannot safely remain in quarantine due to such conditions or potential conditions that could result in the member requiring possible medical intervention or local hospitalization," reads the agreement, which was shared with TPG by a Covac member.
While those are the two most significant changes of note, all Covac members are now required to either purchase the membership 14 days prior to departure or present results of a negative PCR test taken within seven days of departure.
Additionally, Covac no longer provides COVID-19 evacuation services in 22 countries, including Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Maldives and South Africa. A full list is available below and online.
Related: 5 things that should be in your COVID-19 travel contingency plan
To be clear, Covac Global is a membership program marketed as insurance but is not regulated in the way travel insurance is.
Related: Why I’m still buying travel insurance for international vacations — even if it isn’t required