The effects of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) (Coronavirus) are escalating worldwide and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently declared the Coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern. Many governments, including the Australian Government, have now introduced strict travel restrictions and travel advice relating to travel to and from and through mainland China.
We have had a number of queries regarding insurance cover following the outbreak of the virus.
The most common potential claims in the market will be travel (cancellation, medical) and business interruption insurance under a business insurance policy.
Travel insurance policies commonly include exclusions for pandemics and epidemics which includes viruses such as SARS, Avian and Swine Flu. In order for these exclusions to be relied upon, the insurer must be able to demonstrate that the virus fits within the exclusion. They must be able to provide evidence (such as Department of Affairs & Trade (DFAT) and WHO warnings and also medical evidence).
• Cancellations – Whether an insured is covered depends on which policy they have taken out and what date they purchased it. Some insureds will not be covered for trip cancellations. Whether cancellations are covered depends on when the travel policy cover was taken out. If it was after the Coronavirus was deemed to be a Public Health Emergency, then it will not be covered.
Some travel insurance policies may cover insureds who cancel the remainder of their trips if they were already in China before DFAT raised its travel advice to level 4 however after that date, cover will not be extended due to the exclusion which is in most, if not all, travel policies.
Some travellers may not need to rely on insurance as some airlines are offering full refunds for customers who bought tickets to, from, or via mainland China issued before the deemed date of knowledge of the Coronavirus whilst other airlines whose passengers had China as part of their itinerary may be offered a refund.
• Medical expenses – Some travel policies will cover insureds in the affected region for medical expenses relation to Coronavirus if they commenced the travel before the DFAT advisory was lifted to level 4 (23 January 2020) when the outbreak became a known event) which means that policies purchased after that date may not be covered.
Does travel insurance cover Coronavirus?
Cover for medical expenses and cancellation caused by epidemic – only if already in the region before the insurer issues a travel alert or DFAT raises travel advice level to “Reconsider Travel” or “Do Not Travel”.
Note that between 20 January 2020 to 24 January 2020, most travel insurers had issued a travel alert which triggered the “travel advice” exclusion.
• Corporate – more likely to cover; may provide cover if taken out before the outbreak started.
• Leisure – more restrictive than corporate; exclusions for “Epidemic” (including pandemic).
Business Interruption policies respond to physical damage to insured property. There is no physical damage to insured property caused by the coronavirus. This means that the only cover if the insured can rely on the extension for “Infectious of contagious diseases etc”. However, this cover only operates when the infectious disease results in closure or evacuation of the insured premises. We are not aware of any circumstances in which the coronavirus has resulted in closure or evacuation of the insured premises. Even if it does, there may be other reasons why the claim would not be covered.
We encourage all of our clients to give serious consideration to the necessity of upcoming travel plans.
Please use the below two website links to monitor the threat of spread of this virus:
• DFAT: https://www.dfat.gov.au
• Smart Traveller: https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/
Should you have queries regarding your specific circumstances, please do not hesitate to contact one of our brokers to discuss further.
Safe travels, from all of us at Aviso WA Insurance Brokers.
If you have any general questions or queries, please ring our office on (08) 6274 0500