Covid travel insurance threat for pinged travellers

There’s concern that some travel insurance companies aren’t covering travellers pinged to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app. We take a look.

The content of this article was relevant at the time of publishing. Circumstances change continuously and caution should therefore be exercised when relying upon any content contained within this article.

Woman traveller walking alone with suitcase bag.

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Since the introduction of the UK’s Covid traffic light system, travel insurance for Covid-19-related issues during your travels has become essential. It covers trips that are cancelled or cut short, medical emergencies, delayed departures or missed transport due to coronavirus. You’re also covered for travel back to the UK if you contract coronavirus while on holiday.

However, there’s concern that some travel insurance companies aren’t covering travellers pinged to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app. We take a look.

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What is the NHS Covid-19 app?

The NHS Covid-19 app is owned and run by the National Health Service. It alerts or ‘pings’ you if you’ve been near other app users who have tested positive for Covid-19 or have visited a venue where you might have come into contact with coronavirus.

A ping from the app means you have to self-isolate for 10 days. This isn’t a legal requirement, but it’s considered a moral obligation to protect others.

What is NHS Test and Trace?

Test and Trace is a contact tracing system used by the NHS to identify who needs to self-isolate. A person who tests positive is asked questions about who they have been in contact with. The NHS then contacts these people and asks them to self-isolate. The NHS might also request that they take a Covid test.

According to the website, it’s a legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid-19 or are identified as a contact and asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. Failure to self-isolate for the full time period can result in a fine of £1,000 or more.


Will my travel insurance policy pay out if I get pinged?

According to the BBC, data from Defaqto indicates that about 88% of travel insurance policies in the UK would pay out if you cancel your holiday because of a positive test. However, the percentage drops to 56% if the cancellation is the result of a ping from the NHS Covid-19 app to self-isolate.

Some policies may not pay out because:

  • It is a legal requirement to comply with a self-isolation notification from NHS Test and Trace, while a ping from the NHS Covid-19 app isn’t backed by a legal requirement. 
  • The level of cover selected doesn’t cover problems arising from self-isolation pings from the app.

As a policyholder, you have a responsibility to fully understand what your travel insurance covers. If you aren’t sure whether it covers you for a ping from the NHS Covid-19 app, contact your insurer.

What does travel insurance cover in the UK?

Generally, travel insurance covers cancelled or cut short trips, medical emergencies, delayed departures or missed transport for reasons beyond your control. However, owing to coronavirus, travel insurance policies now include covid-19-related reasons.

When applying for travel insurance, especially for coronavirus reasons, you might come across different levels of cover. It’s important to carefully read and understand the differences between these levels.

It’s also important to bear in mind that you may invalidate your travel insurance policy if you travel against FCDO advice, meaning it won’t pay out.

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