Travel Insurance Coverage & Coronavirus Trip Cancellations Explained
With over 80 thousand cases of infected persons across the globe and almost three thousand deaths, the coronavirus has become a nightmare for many countries, which remain unable to predict where new cases of infected persons will pop up next.
With the number of those infected spiking up daily, the disease is not only causing panic in the countries where a significant number of cases have been detected, but it is also hurting economies of these countries, in particular the tourism industry, therefore travellers too.
A large share of world citizens that have planned their abroad vacations for the beginning of 2020 in countries like China, South Korea, Italy, and even other countries in Europe, are now cancelling their trips, due to fear of catching the coronavirus, and not only.
Many travellers who may not mind the virus, have woken up to find that tourist attractions in these countries and others, universities and schools, as well as other public spaces and even restaurants and bars have closed in some parts where the number of those infected is higher.
Thus, these travellers have decided to cancel their trips, later on finding out that they risk losing all their money since their travel insurance may not cover all their expenses, as cancellation fees and non-refundable fees.
Does Travel Insurance Cover Coronavirus Trip Cancellations?
An epidemic disease as coronavirus proves the importance of paying attention to the print of a travel insurance policy, so a traveller knows what it includes, and what he/she risks losing for cancelling a trip in cases like this.
This is why, travellers that have already made all arrangements necessary for a trip, whether to China, Europe or elsewhere, before rushing on to cancel their plans with the confidence that travel insurance will cover them, should check if it actually does.
The thing is that most travel insurance policies do not cover trip cancellations for reasons as fear of an epidemic disease, as they do not consider it a good enough reason for trip cancellation.
In fact, almost every existing travel insurance policy excludes epidemics and pandemics on purpose, as insurance companies are most scared that an epidemic or pandemic by nature could put these companies out of business if they had to pay out millions of dollars for all their policies.
Cases When Travel Insurance May Cover Coronavirus Trip Cancellations
Despite that travel insurance companies tend to exclude epidemic and pandemic diseases from their plans, there are several cases when they have to, and they do reimburse travellers hurt by a situation similar like the one caused due to the coronavirus outbreak.
- Firstly, if you have arranged everything to travel to a country where there’s a confirmed outbreak, as China, South Korea, Italy or Iran before the outbreak took place, then you have better chances of being covered to an extension by your travel insurance, than if you were to cancel your trip to a country where only a few cases have been detected, but you are scared of travelling there.
Some Travel insurance companies have themselves stepped in and declared that they will cover all trips to China booked before January 21, when the outbreak of the virus happened. Whereas, for those booked later, they will not take responsibility
- Also, if the Foreign Affairs authority in your country of residence advises not to travel to a particular country, the travel insurance is obliged to cover your material loss, if you have booked the trip in advance of the “do not go” advise. You may be able to even get a full refund.
- In addition, if you have another health condition, a weaker immune system, or you simply get sick before your trip, you can get a full refund even if your destination country has only detected a few cases of people infected with the coronavirus. A note from a doctor should be handed to the insurance company in such cases.
- The last option is that you have a “Cancel for Any Reason” travel insurance policy. Many companies offer this option to their clients, which means they can cancel their trip without even having to present a reason for the company, in case they want to.
Cancel for Any Reason Policies
While the standard travel insurance policies will not cover any trip cancellation by travellers who simply fear they can get coronavirus, many insurance companies offer the ‘cancel for any reason’ benefit. Through this benefit, they will be covered even if they cancel their trip out of fear from coronavirus, even in the places with very few cases reported.
Yet, travel insurances with such a benefit have their limitations as well. Firstly, they are about 30 per cent to 60 per cent more expensive than standard plans.
Additionally, to qualify for reimbursement travellers need to cancel their trip at least 48 hours in advance, even when they have this benefit.
And lastly, even when a traveller cancels a trip on time, most versions of the ‘cancel for any reason’ policy plans reimburse travellers for only 50% to 75% of their prepaid non-refundable trip cost.
Travel Insurance Advice for Those Already in an Infected Area
If you are already in a country with a coronavirus outbreak, or you find yourself there when it happens, the first thing you ought to do is check to see if your travel insurance includes non-medical evacuation coverage.
You may be able to claim compensation for evacuation up to the limits on your plan if you have this coverage. In addition, if the evacuation is organized by the government of your country, your travel insurance company is obliged to cover you.
Note that if you are in a quarantined zone, travel insurance evacuation coverage won’t be able to get them out before the quarantine ends.
Contact with your travel insurance company and ask them detailed questions regarding your situation.
If You Are Planning to Travel to an Infected Area
If it is a must for you to travel to an infected area, that still permits travellers to enter, then you should buy extended travel insurance that covers epidemic and pandemic situations.
Before you purchase it, you may want to check if it includes:
- Coverage for epidemics and pandemics.
- Medical benefits and low deductibles for out-of-pocket expenses.
- At least $50,000 of emergency medical expenses
- $250,000 of emergency medical evacuation coverage.
Also, make sure you book fully refundable tickets and reservation if possible. This way you will not only risk losing money, but you will also have at least one less thing to worry about.
Cancelling Schengen Area Travel Insurance
Many travellers are already cancelling their trips to the Schengen Area member states, in particular to Italy, where the numbers of those affected are continuously increasing. And just as travellers to anywhere else in the world, those to Europe are also affected by the travel insurance coverage in pandemic and epidemic situations.
If you want to cancel your trip to Europe, you must be aware that you may lose all your money, except if your country of residence has issued a warning against travelling to that country.
In such a case, you can contact the travel insurance company and inform them you want to cancel your trip, at least 48 hours in advance of your trip.
If your insurance doesn’t cover you, then you should call the hotel and airline and see whether it is possible to cancel your reservations and be fully refunded. If not, try postponing your reservation for a different time, when the situation may be better.
If You Don’t Have Travel Insurance at All
If you have booked a trip to a country where the cases of coronavirus-infected persons are increasing, and you do not have travel insurance, you still have a way out, and can save at least some money.
If you want to cancel your trip at all, check if the hotel you have booked has made an exception and is making full refunds for those cancelling their stay, as many are doing so. If not, ask them for at least a partial refund.
Moreover, check with them if you can postpone your stay in that hotel, as they may offer you the opportunity to go and stay there somewhere later, maybe during summer, when the whole coronavirus thing will pass.
As per airlines, they often permit you to reroute a trip, so check maybe you can change your ticket for a place where there are fewer risks of coronavirus infections.