When Ken McIlroy decided to go to Belize last June after a business trip to Miami, he wasn’t worried about contracting Covid-19, he said.
The CEO of the real estate investment firm traveled privately to both places – and was vaccinated.
“I was like, there’s no way to get it,” he told CNBC.
McIlroy said his fiancée, Danielle Underwood, was not confident.
After 10 days in Belize, the couple took Covid tests the day before their flight back to Arizona. Although he was feeling tired and was coughing, they were both surprised when the test results came back positive.
“We were out of our room within an hour,” McIlroy said. “That’s when it got so real.”
With the help of people in hazmat suits, he said, the couple was isolated in another part of the hotel.
“We weren’t sure what would happen…if they kicked us out or put us in the hospital,” McIlroy said. “I didn’t know if I would need a ventilator.”
None of that happened. Within 72 hours, the couple was back in Arizona aboard the Learjet.
Before they left, Underwood bought a membership Kovac all over the world, a medical evacuation company established in the spring of 2020 by crisis management firm HRI. McIlroy said that meant the couple didn’t pay a dime to get them sent home.
Commercial airlines and private jets cannot take travelers home with Covid-19, but helicopters certified to treat injuries with medical teams can.
While some companies are evacuating travelers who need hospital treatment, Covac Global is recovering travelers who have tested positive for Covid-19 and have self-reported symptoms. CEO Ross Thompson said about 85% of the evacuees have gone home, with the rest requiring hospital care.
When CNBC I spoke with the company for the first time in MarchShe had about two medical evacuations a month. Now that number has increased to about 12 to 20.
“Unfortunately, business is booming,” Thompson said. “Covid started showing more in the rearview mirror, but then Delta appeared – and it threw everyone into a loop.”
He said Covac Global membership is up 500% this year, up 250% in the last month alone.
Because of the so-called “super-infection,” caused by the highly contagious delta variant, vaccinated people can get sick or be stuck away from home. About 60% of evacuees are currently vaccinated, Thompson said, because they are “the people who are now more comfortable traveling.”
Ken McIlroy and Danielle Underwood board a helicopter to travel to Belize City.
Thanks to Ken McIlroy
Many countries require negative repatriation tests, which detect mild cases of Covid-19 for travelers who were unaware they were infected.
“We found that 30% to 40% of members test positive at the end of their journey,” Thompson said. We also see this in younger, unvaccinated children of vaccinated travelers.
MedjetAnother medical evacuation company announced, in a record summer, that sales of MedjetHorizon’s membership — the highest level of coverage — hit an all-time high in July. The company said it just posted its highest net monthly membership earnings in more than a decade.
Medjet CEO John Goebbels said requests for help are above pre-pandemic levels, although not all of them are linked to the pandemic.
“Some of it is for Covid, but the majority is still the same old stuff that never went away,” he said.
After a helicopter ride to mainland Belize and a transfer to Learget (“we didn’t have to go to the station”), McIlroy and Underwood flew to Phoenix where a limousine bus was waiting on the tarmac.
McIlroy said the service was “literally door-to-door.”
Thompson said this is not about five star service. He said certified air ambulances are essential to transport patients infected with the Covid virus to hospitals or, in the case of Kovac Global, to their homes.
Ross Thompson said medical evacuation flights, such as the ones McIlroy and Underwood used to get home, are like a private plane and the hospital’s emergency room has been merged into one.
Thanks to Ken McIlroy
In addition, situations arise where non-members request evacuation to the nearest city in their country so that they can drive home to save money, he said. And instead of driving, they could hop on a commercial flight, which Thompson said was a “big refusal.”
McIlroy called his fiancée “the heroine of the story” because she lobbied for their eviction policy and eventually bought it.
Other travelers are not so lucky.
CNBC spoke to a 43-year-old Singaporean who tried to return from India to Singapore last April to start a new job. The trip – which could only take six hours – turned out to be a six-week epic. The man asked not to be named in this report.
Singapore imposed restrictions on travelers from India, so the man and his family planned a two-week trip to Nepal, after which they could fly directly to Singapore. While you were there, a delta variant exploded in the area and all flights from Nepal to Singapore were canceled.
Within days, he said, the man, his wife, three children and his 85-year-old mother had tested positive for the Covid virus. By then, Nepal had imposed a strict lockdown — gas stations and public transport were closed, he said, and the family was struggling to find food and medicine.
Due to a lack of space, Covid-19 patients ended up in the corridors of a hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 11, 2021.
Parabens Ranabate | SOPA photos | light missile | Getty Images
He said: We don’t know anyone. “We knew nothing about the medical system, people were dying left, right and center with no beds and no oxygen.”
He said the family was evicted from their service apartment when management learned of their health condition. Weeks passed and the family fully recovered, but they were prevented from making the weekly trip to Delhi as they were still being tested for Covid-19.
RT-PCR [test] It mainly looks for the DNA of the virus, It does not distinguish between living and dead cells,” He said.
He had considered medical evacuations, but his friend similarly told him in the Philippines that such flights were “astronomically expensive”.
In the end, the family tested negative and they returned to Delhi. In the 20 days since his recovery, the man told CNBC he’s slept in 12 different locations. He is now in Singapore, but some of his relatives are still in India.
Medical evacuation is expensive. Thompson said the evacuations from Singapore to New York could cost up to $300,000. However, 70% of Covac Global’s evictions are non-members repatriating their pockets from places like the Bahamas, Mexico, South Africa and Dubai.
Since opening membership to all nationalities on July 15, the company has evacuated more people across Europe, especially from Spain to the UK.
So far, Thompson said, no foreign government has rejected his company’s request to evacuate a passenger infected with the Covid virus from its territory. He said they are usually happy to leave.
He said, “They don’t want news of some foreigners dying in their hospitals in the Delta, and they don’t want to lose a member of their family to a foreigner.”
Only time problems can arise when the hospital actually begins treatment. “This is the time when governments really start to feel a little weird about it,” he said.
Memberships with companies like Medjet and Global Rescue cover cruise passengers, but not Covac Global.
“Cruises are doing really well with their protocols and policies,” Thompson said. “But the problem is … every time, whether it’s reported or not, there are people who are sick.”
He said that Kovac Global has evacuated passengers infected with the Covid virus who are not members of the cruises, although these cases do not report any news.
This service is not too expensive for budget cruisers, Thompson said.
“Cruise companies are quietly paying out of their own money,” he said.