People planning to travel to countries where their are coronavirus cases and still many tourists from China may want to check their travel insurance. It’s possible their insurance policy might not provide coverage for claims, losses or costs associated with the coronavirus.
The mysterious coronavirus that causes pneumonia-like illness sent the Chinese city of Wuhan – considered the epicentre of the virus – into lock down in mid-January. Its has now spread to multiple countries, including Australia.
Australian travellers have been advised to “reconsider your need to travel” to China overall and “do not travel” to Hubei Province (which includes Wuhan) by the Australian government’s latest update on its Smartraveller website.
The “do not travel” warning is typically associated with “extremely dangerous” situations.
According to Smartraveller, the updated travel warning may mean travel insurance policies could be void. Also the Australian government “may be unable to help.” Above all if you travel to the identified locations and get into trouble.
Does travel insurance cover coronavirus
Given the rapid spread of the virus and the latest warnings, Aussie jetsetters may be eager to know if their travel insurance will cover them in the event their travel plans are disrupted by the coronavirus.
Exclusive Canstar analysis of travel insurance policies from some of Australia’s largest insurers has found there is some variation as to how different providers approach epidemics, pandemics and virus outbreaks like the coronavirus.
Canstar analysts found that CoverMore; – which provides travel insurance on behalf of NRMA, SGIO and SGIC and is underwritten by Zurich Australian Insurance Limited. – Would not fully cover all insurance claims caused by an epidemic, pandemic or outbreak of infectious disease.
However, CoverMore told Canstar that depending on your policy, there may be cover available for medical expenses for people who have contracted the coronavirus and have been hospitalized.
“Even if medical coverage is available to you for this event, there may not be coverage for travellers’ cancellation or amendment of travel plans. Also other additional expenses as a result of the coronavirus epidemic,” CoverMore said
On the other hand, Budget Direct’s policy documents did not specifically mention any exclusion. The also stated the insurer would cover the costs of travel cancellation. If customers were unable to travel because of restrictions placed upon them during or after an epidemic.
Travel Insurance policies issued after 20th of January
But the insurer recently issued a travel alert on its website. Indicating that customers would be excluded from Insurance coverage for claims associated with the coronavirus. If their policy was purchased after 20 January.
CGU and HBF’s travel insurance policies – both underwritten by CGU Insurance; – said they would not offer cover for pandemics, epidemics or other infectious disease outbreaks if the customer’s insurance was issued after an alert. Or warning had been distributed regarding any outbreak or possible outbreak.
AAMI and Southern Cross Travel Insurance policies also said any claims, costs, losses or damage would not be covered if they were associated with epidemic or pandemic illnesses, or with the outbreak of other infectious diseases.
Southern Cross Insurance issued an update recently, indicating it would assess claims normally if the insurance was purchased before 11am AEDT on Tuesday, 21 January. But did say if customers bought a policy after that time it “would consider that you would have been aware of the outbreak”.
Travel Insurance before or after a travel warning
Canstar finance expert Effie Zahos said it was important for travellers to read the fine print of their insurance policies. Also question their insurers to ensure they were aware of what is included and excluded on their policies. Because above all most policies differ.
“Whether or not you’re covered can come down to when you took out your insurance policy. Also whether you travelled before or after a travel warning was issued,” Ms Zahos said.
“Generally, when official travel warnings are announced, a lot of insurance policies are void. So it’s very important to monitor destination warnings prior to travel.
“Always be sure to look up your destination on Smartraveller. Even more make sure you are aware of any risks or safety advice.”
Smartraveller advised travellers that Chinese authorities may expand travel restrictions further at short notice. Which could result in “significant disruption” to public transport services. Also, accommodation providers may refuse to accept guests with high temperatures. Even more those who have recently visited areas affected by the virus outbreak.
Travel insurance customers who are concerned about their level of cover may want to call their insurer. Above all to find out more information and check their policy’s Product Disclosure Statement.
What is new coronavirus?
The virus’ scientific name is 2019-nCoV, and it is part of a broad family of viruses that cause respiratory illness. The deadly SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus outbreak of 2003, that caused an estimated 774 deaths, was also a coronavirus.
The new coronavirus – which has not previously been detected in humans – was initially linked to exposure to animals at a seafood market in Wuhan, but authorities have since confirmed it is spreading via human-to-human contact.
The virus can cause a range of symptoms, from mild illness to pneumonia. Affected people may experience fever, flu-like symptoms and difficulty breathing.
There is no vaccine for the virus at this stage, and development of such vaccines can typically take up to 10 years, but scientists in Australia have just made a major breakthrough. Experts at Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity became the world’s first scientific lab outside of China to develop a lab-grown version of the disease, which is expected to be critical in testing potential vaccines and identifying people who may have been infected.
What locations have been impacted by the coronavirus?
A number of Chinese cities, including Wuhan, are now subject to travel bans. Lunar New Year holidays were also extended across the country in a bid to discourage travel, and Chinese citizens have been banned from international group travel to limit the spread of the virus.
There are reports the infection has spread to people in Hong Kong; Japan; Taiwan; Thailand; South Korea; the United States; Singapore; Malaysia; France; Nepal; Canada; Macau; Vietnam and Australia.
Health and biosecurity authorities in multiple countries have been screening airport travellers for the coronavirus.
Where can travellers and their family members find more information?
Smartraveller has information about the coronavirus outbreak available online for travellers. Including what to avoid during your trip. Also what to do if you feel sick while travelling or after returning to Australia.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said any Australians who believe they have family in the affected area of Hubei Province should contact its emergency line on 1300 555 135 locally or +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas.
The Department of Health is monitoring the situation closely. It said everyone should practice hygiene measures to protect against the infection. Including washing your hands, covering your mouth while coughing or sneezing. Also avoiding contact with wild or farm animals. The public health information line is available on 1800 004 599.