According to Travelance insurance agent Nathan Atkins, travel insurance companies across Canada may take “a few weeks” to process trip-cancellation claims and sickness benefits, due to the heightened global travel restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19, a highly infectious disease that has infected more than 2.3 million people as of April 19, has forced several countries to stricken travel regulations by banning non-essential travel, shutting down borders and cancelling flights, to help combat the spread of the disease.

While these new measures have helped to restrict Canadians from travelling abroad, insurance companies are now stuck handling the high-volume of trip-cancellation claims.

“It’s been a nightmare of a situation,” said Atkins, a 32-year-old insurance agent from Mississauga. He said he receives more than 10 calls or emails a day about how customers can get a refund on their policies or how to receive interruption benefits.

Atkins said the majority of claim inquiries skyrocketed after March 13, due to the new travel advisory issued by the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Francois-Philippe Champagne, asking Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau followed up on the non-essential travel ban by issuing a temporary closure of the Canada-U.S. border on March 20, for one month.

“We understand why the Canadian government did the travel bans, but the pace these regulations are moving are making it hard for advisors and claims departments across the board to follow up on how to distribute benefits,” said Atkins.

Atkins said for now, Canadians waiting for their travel insurance compensation should be patient until their claims can be processed accordingly.

“It’s a frustrating time for everyone. I think the best advice for Canadians right now is to wait until things clear up. Companies will have a solution for everyone—that’s for sure,” said Atkins.

For Canadians like Daniel Ceballos, waiting around for travel insurance compensation to arrive is something he can’t afford to do.

Ceballos, a 26-year-old software developer from Toronto, said he called his travel insurance agent on March 8 to submit a flight-cancellation claim for a trip booked to Mexico on April 3, but has yet to receive any updates on his claim.

“Between me getting laid-off because of non-essential business closures and waiting for EI payments to come, I’m afraid I won’t get the flight refund in time to pay the bills for the next few weeks,” said Ceballos.

While Ceballos said that he understands that insurance companies are backlogged with hundreds of flight-cancellation claims, he said that a simple update would put his mind at ease.

“I’d like to be kept updated, even if it’s an email saying that they’re working on it. I’m scared knowing that they might have forgotten me,” said Ceballos.

Atkins said the reason Canadians have not been getting updates on their insurance claims is because insurance providers are prioritizing stranded Canadians stuck abroad due to flight cancellations, or are sick with critical illnesses.

“It’s no surprise that the insurance industry is collectively making temporary exceptions right now where they’re prioritizing cases on Canadians that are having trouble coming home, and those who are suffering from diseases like COVID-19,” said Atkins.

Li Yan Ping, a nurse at Sunnybrook Hospital, said the reason that insurance companies should prioritize claims for sick Canadians suffering from COVID-19 abroad, is because they likely won’t know how they’ll be there.

“COVID-19 affects everything, and everyone. But those who are actually sick from it are in a bad position, because they don’t know how long they could be in quarantine for. It could take weeks for someone to be properly discharged,” said Yan Ping.

Yan Ping also said that insurance benefits could be used to finance their travel fare home, where they can continue treatment by Canadian medical professionals.

“If their insurance payouts are prioritized, it can help to relieve stress by bringing them back to Canada, where they’ll feel the most at home,” said Yan Ping.