The deadly coronavirus has claimed seventeen lives so far, and with at least 500 confirmed cases in Asia and one suspected case in the US, travellers are nervous about their upcoming visits.
The virus originated in Wuhan, China, and has since spread through Beijing, Shanghai, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the US, and international airports have stepped up screening of overseas travellers from the affected cities.
The World Health Organisation has put off declaring the outbreak a global health emergency, but Australia has raised its travel level for Wuhan City in China to level 2.
It comes ahead of the Lunar New Year, which is expected to see 3 billion trips taken worldwide.
But if you’re wondering whether you should cancel your trip, travel insurance firm Compare Travel Insurance says you may not be covered.
“Although the panic over the virus is understandable, experts are advising travellers not to put their holiday plans on hold just yet,” the firm said.
Not all travel insurance policies will cover trip cancellation due to a pandemic once official travel warnings have been released.
“Travel insurance exists to cover the unforeseen, not events travellers are already aware of,” director of Compare Travel Insurance, Natalie Ball, said.
“Many policies will not cover pandemics as a general rule. However, it is worth being mindful that certain insurers may still pay out cancellation benefits provided your policy was purchased before a warning was issued.”
Some companies like Columbus Direct, Go Insurance, InsureandGo, Tick Travel Insurance and Travel Insuranz will pay a benefit should you need to cancel your trip due to government restrictions (after a pandemic), but Allianz, Fastcover and 1Cover list pandemics and epidemics as a general exclusion.
Cancelling out of fear
According to the firm, travellers wanting to change their travel plans are unlikely to be covered for any change of mind decisions.
“We’ve had enquiries from travellers wanting to cancel their holiday to China,” Ball said.
“Unfortunately, travel insurance does not cover cancellation for fear of contracting the virus.”
But, if you’re at a higher risk of contracting an infectious disease due to immune system issues, you might have provision to claim.
“If your immunity is suppressed in any way, insurers will assess your claim based on your particular condition. The government is advising against travel to Wuhan, so if this was part of your holiday plan, you may have provision to claim. Take note that in these circumstances, all cases are reviewed individually.”
Contract the virus on your trip
If you travel to an affected country and contract coronavirus, Ball says in most cases your medical costs would be covered.
“If travellers end up in a medical emergency overseas due to the virus, your travel insurer is likely to do everything they can to assist you,” she said.
“This not only includes covering the costs for medical treatment, but also providing support and updates to family members where appropriate.”