Friday 28 February 2020
Corona virus, overseas travel and travel insurance

Following the initial outbreak of the coronavirus in China cases have spread to neighbouring countries and those further afield. As of 28th February 2020, Antarctica is the only continent where there are believed to be no current sufferers.

Here are the key points as regards the operation of a travel policy:

What has the government said about travel?

The government has advised against all travel to Hubei Province in China – the centre of the coronavirus outbreak – and advised against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China (not including Hong Kong or Macau).

The government has also advised against all but essential travel to:

  • 10 towns in Lombardy, Italy - Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano
  • One town in Veneto, Italy – Vo’ Euganeo
  • Daegu and Cheongdo in South Korea

If a trip was booked to one of these destinations BEFORE the government issued its latest advice, a claim may be admissible for cancellation.

However, different insurance companies are handling the coronavirus situation in different ways, so you will need to check the policy documents and check the insurance company’s website for more information.

What happens if I travel against advice?

If you travel to any destination against the advice of the government, you’ll render your travel insurance invalid and won’t be able to make any claims.

If the government advises against “all but essential travel” to a destination, you should check with your travel insurance company if you wish to proceed. It is unlikely that a holiday would be deemed “essential”, so you would probably not be insured if you went ahead.

Some airlines are cancelling flights and offering refunds or alternatives to those affected. If you have a flight booked, contact your airline to see what their policy is. Given the government’s advice, you should be able to cancel or change your itinerary.

I have a trip booked to one of the named destinations later in 2020 – what can I do?

Your first port of call should be your travel agent or tour operator. Given the government’s advice on travelling to certain destinations, you should be offered a refund or provided with alternative arrangements.

If you make alternative plans, you should be able to transfer your travel insurance to cover the new trip. But discuss this with your travel insurer before you set off.

If you no longer need insurance because you are not travelling, you may be able to obtain a refund of some or all of your premium.

If you’ve made your own travel and accommodation arrangements for a trip to one of the named destinations, you’ll need to contact the airline and hotel to discuss refunds or alternatives.

If you are obliged to cancel your trip because of government advice or medical advice, you may be able to claim any non-refundable costs. Your insurer will provide details.

I have a trip booked where the connecting flight goes via one of the destinations listed by the government. What can I do?

You may find that your airline has suspended flights, in which case you should be offered alternative arrangements to get you to your destination.

If the flight is going ahead, be mindful of the government’s advice about non-essential travel to the destinations above. If you choose to travel, you are likely to invalidate your travel insurance.

If you have booked a holiday that requires a connecting flight through a listed destination, contact your tour operator or travel agent for advice and information about a refund.

I’m not travelling to a listed destination, but I still don’t want to travel abroad. Can I claim for cancelling my trip?

Almost certainly not. Travel insurers would refer to this as ‘disinclination’ to travel, which is not seen as a valid reason to claim.

If you dig deep into your policy documents, you may even find an explicit exclusion saying that fear of catching a disease is not sufficient to trigger a pay-out.

I want to travel to a country that has already seen a sudden increase in coronavirus cases, will I be covered?

If you’re travelling somewhere that has seen an increase in coronavirus cases, but the FCO hasn’t issued a warning against travelling, it’s unlikely your travel insurance policy will cover you for cancellation of your holiday.

However, you should be covered if the coronavirus outbreak leads to disruption while you’re on your trip.

Will I be covered if I get coronavirus or I am put into quarantine?

If you’re diagnosed with coronavirus while you’re travelling, you will need to seek medical treatment before returning to the UK. If you fall ill, tell your insurer immediately and they will advise you of your options.

As far as travel insurance is concerned, your situation will depend on where you are, what treatment you receive and your medical prognosis.

Insurers are responding differently to the situation as it develops, so you’ll need to ask them for advice and support.

If you fall ill in Europe, your European Health Insurance Card will entitle you to treatment on the same terms as a local citizen (this will remain the case at least until the end of the Brexit transition period, which runs until 31 December 2020).

If you are further afield, your travel insurance should meet any medical expenses you incur, provided you did not ignore government travel advice. You may also be able to claim for additional expenses incurred because of your prolonged stay overseas, such as bed and board for other members of your party.

If you are placed into quarantine abroad, you may also be able to claim for out-of-pocket expenses, but as ever, you’ll need to check with your insurer.

For further information a to obtain a quote for travel insurance, please contact us on 01924 871111 or email