Cover,Travel Warnings

Will travel insurance cover a coronavirus claim?

12 February 2020

COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on global travel. For Australian travellers, there’s a range of ways that the outbreak could affect your upcoming travel plans, or trip back home to Australia. But will your travel insurance cover you?

As the Australian Government’s travel advice for China has been upgraded to ‘Do not travel‘, you may want to cancel an upcoming trip to China, or cancel a portion of your trip including flights, tours and accommodation.  You may even need to cancel or rebook air travel or other arrangements due to being quarantined or instructed to self-isolate. Or worse still, you might need to claim medical costs due to being treated for coronavirus. Here’s how the coronavirus impacts travel insurance claims. 

You’re probably wondering if a travel insurance claim would cover these, and similar scenarios related to the outbreak? The short answer is that a travel insurance claim related to a natural disaster or major global event depends completely on the date on which your policy was bought.

Remember, travel insurance is there to cover unforeseen events, emergencies, mishaps and accidents, so your eligibility to claim depends on whether you knew about the virus or not.

Insurers need to draw a line in the sand, and 20 January has been determined as the date by when Australian’s should have been sufficiently aware of the epidemic.

GENERALLY, When you can claim

Will your travel insurance cover coronavirus cancellation and medical claims? The short answer is yes – if you purchased a policy with adequate cover for cancellations, prior to 11.59am on 19 January. Travellers who bought policies at this stage are considered to have not yet known of the risks to travel that the coronavirus represented. Claims made by these customers are likely to be supported, provided that the usual conditions are met.

aND When you can’t claim

Policies bought from 20 January however, are considered to have been bought in full knowledge of the virus, and the travel warnings that went along with it. Unfortunately, cancellation claims related to coronavirus, from here on in, are viewed as a ‘change of mind’, and are therefore not covered.

Equally, claims related to medical treatment or expatriation costs will not be covered, as customers travelled in full knowledge that they may become unwell.

Note, travel insurers  typically only cover destination-based cancellations if the destination has been assigned a ‘Do Not Travel’ advisory warning by the Australian Government. Advisories can be found on the Smartraveller website. We do not cover cancellation when the reason is a change of mind.

Do you cover coronavirus cancellations?

Yes, if…

You’re covered if you purchased your policy prior to 19 Jan 2020. 
If your travel insurance policy was purchased prior to midnight 19 January, then yes, your travel insurance policy will cover valid cancellation claims related to Coronavirus, up to your plan’s limits*. This could include assisting you with flight cancellation costs, tour cancellation costs, and accommodation cancellations costs.

*Cancellation cover is only available on Basic, Comprehensive and Domestic policies.

No, because…

You’re not covered if you purchased after 20 Jan 2020. 
If you purchased travel insurance after midnight on 19 January 2020 you will not be covered for any cancellation claims related to the coronavirus. This is due to the fact that as of 20 January, the virus outbreak was widely publicised, and health and travel authorities had advised that travellers take all necessary precautions. Customers purchasing travel insurance post 20 January do so in the knowledge that travel may be impacted by the Coronavirus.

Can I cancel my trip if I or one of the travellers on the policy becomes ill with the coronavirus before we leave Australia?

Yes…

Regardless of when you purchased your travel insurance policy, cancellation cover is available if you need to cancel due to the unforeseeable death or illness due to coronavirus of your relative, business associate or travelling companion who is a resident in Australia and who is in Australia at the time the event occurs. Limits apply*.

Alternatively we may cover the cost of rescheduling your trip prior to departure provided the cost of rescheduling does not exceed the cost of cancellation. This benefit can only be claimed once per policy per insured person.

*Cancellation cover is only available on Basic, Comprehensive and Domestic policies.

What happens if I contract coronavirus while I’m overseas? Am I covered?

Yes, if…

You’re claim should be covered if your travel insurance was purchased prior to 19 January and you have followed all advice from the government or any other official body. If you become sick for any reason while you are away, including due to coronavirus, your medical treatment or hospitalisation is covered under our overseas medical and hospital benefit. This benefit is available on all plans.

No, because…

You’re not covered if your travel insurance was purchased after 20 January and you become sick due to the coronavirus. In this case, your medical treatment is not covered, nor are the costs for any changes to your travel plans due to becoming ill with this virus. This is due to the fact that as of 20 January, the virus outbreak was widely publicised, and health and travel authorities had advised that travellers take all necessary precautions. Customers purchasing travel insurance post 20 January do so in the knowledge that travel may be impacted by coronavirus.

What happens if I need to be repatriated home due to the Coronavirus?

Yes, if…

You’re covered if your travel insurance was purchased prior to 19 January. If you have followed all advice from the government or any other official body, and you need emergency transport back home to Australia, due to becoming ill with coronavirus, we can arrange and cover your journey home.

This cover is available under our emergency medical transport & repatriation benefit, offered on Basic and Comprehensive plans only.

No, because…

You’re not covered if your travel insurance was purchased after 20 January. If you need emergency transport back to Australia, due to becoming ill with coronavirus, we cannot cover your journey home. This is due to the fact that as of 20 January, the virus outbreak was widely publicised, and health and travel authorities had advised that travellers take all necessary precautions. Customers purchasing travel insurance post 20 January do so in the knowledge that travel may be impacted by coronavirus.

What will happen if I get quarantined in a country for 14 days or I need to self-isolate and I have to miss flight and tours? Can I claim?

Yes, if…

You’re covered if your travel insurance was purchased prior to 19 January, and you need to cancel flights or bookings due to being quarantined.

Cancellation cover is only available on Basic, Comprehensive and Domestic policies.

No, because…

You’re not covered if your travel insurance was purchased after 20 January, and you need to cancel flights or bookings due to being quarantined. This is due to the fact that as of 20 January, the virus outbreak was widely publicised, and health and travel authorities had advised that travellers take all necessary precautions. Customers purchasing travel insurance post 20 January do so in the knowledge that travel may be impacted by coronavirus.

I have booked a flight to or via China. Am I covered for cancellation claims?

Yes, if…

You’re covered if your travel arrangements and your travel insurance were purchased prior to 19 January and a portion of your journey is impacted by travel bans related to coronavirus, cancellation cover is available on Basic, Comprehensive and Domestic policies.

No, because…

You’re not covered if your travel insurance was purchased after 20 January, and a portion of your journey is impacted by travel bans related to coronavirus. This is due to the fact that as of 20 January, the virus outbreak was widely publicised, and health and travel authorities had advised that travellers take all necessary precautions. Customers purchasing travel insurance post 20 January do so in the knowledge that travel may be impacted by coronavirus.

If you are booking a trip today and including flights via China, Hong Kong or Macau, you should not expect cover from travel insurance.

Airlines might be selling fares transiting through Hong Kong today but there’s a real chance this will change in the coming weeks.

If you’re booking a trip today for travel in the next 2 months you should try to transit through an alternate part of the world, for instance the United Arab Emirates. However, in time airlines might not be able to transit through many destinations – the situation is in flux.

I am transiting through Hong Kong. What happens if the country I am travelling to won’t allow inbound flights from Hong Kong? Can I claim?

If you are travelling via Hong Kong to another country there may be specific bans and procedures in place. The situation is in flux, so please contact your airline for the latest information.

Yes, if…

You’re covered if your travel arrangements and your travel insurance were purchased prior to 19 January and a portion of your journey is impacted by travel bans related to coronavirus, cancellation cover is available on Basic, Comprehensive and Domestic policies.

No, because…

You’re not covered if your travel insurance was purchased after 20 January, and a portion of your journey is impacted by travel bans related to coronavirus.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

A novel coronavirus (CoV) is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. The new, or “novel” coronavirus, now called 2019-nCoV, had not previously been detected before the outbreak was reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

Initial human infections of the novel type of coronaviruses were acquired from exposure to animals at a live animal market in Wuhan. On 20 January, Chinese authorities confirmed the novel coronavirus is spreading person-to-person, with medical workers in Wuhan confirmed to have contracted the disease from patients they had been treating. It remains unknown how easily the virus spreads from person-to-person.

Common symptoms include a fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Severe cases can cause pneumonia, kidney failure, and even death.

Image credit: Photo by Amien from Pexels

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