If you plan to travel, it’s time to start thinking about whether your travel insurance will cover you after lockdown.
Rebecca Kingsley, brand manager of consumer awareness initiative Travel Insurance Explained, advises: “Around the 13th of March, many travel insurers began excluding some coronavirus-related claims from any new policies purchased. This is because the coronavirus was and is now classed as a ‘known event’, and much like any other form of personal insurance, the purpose of insurance is to cover unknown and unexpected events.”
So, what does that mean and how will it affect you?
As Rebecca Kingsley says, travel insurance normally covers you for the costs of unexpected events. These include lost baggage, delayed or cancelled flights, and medical emergencies.
Travel insurance excludes cover for reasonably foreseeable problems that are within your control. For example, most policies exclude reckless behaviour, extreme sports and travelling against the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
When the coronavirus lockdown started, the FCO’s advice changed. It started advising British nationals against all but essential international travel, and strongly advising any UK residents overseas to return.
At the time, coronavirus was an unexpected event that travellers and insurance companies hadn’t foreseen. So, at the time, it wasn’t excluded from travel insurance policies.
When travel resumes after lockdown, this will change. Coronavirus, with all its knock-on effects, is now a reasonably foreseeable risk.
How travel insurance changes will depend on the country you’re travelling to. Future policies might even specifically exclude cover for pandemics. We’ll have to wait and see, but the changes are likely to fall into two main categories.
For people at higher risk from the coronavirus, either premiums will increase or policies will exclude treatment and complications. This will affect older people and people with certain pre-existing conditions.
Travel insurance policies will restrict cover for coronavirus-related holiday, flight and accommodation cancellation. If you have to cancel bookings because you contract coronavirus, you have to self-isolate, or you have to go into quarantine, your travel insurance policy won’t help.
If you’re visiting a country that decides to lock down or enforce mandatory quarantine or travel restrictions, you’re probably also out of luck. Don’t count on your travel insurance to cover costs.
If you’re planning to travel after lockdown ends, all of the standard common-sense travel guidelines still apply.
You should always buy travel insurance before you travel. Even after lockdown, airlines will still lose your luggage, you’ll still miss connecting flights, and you could still be hit by a bus in a foreign country. Regardless of the coronavirus, travel insurance will still cover non-coronavirus-related risks.
Most importantly, keep a close eye on the FCO advice and read the fine print of your travel insurance policy. If the FCO advises against travel and you travel anyway, your policy probably won’t cover you. If the FCO advice changes after you depart, whether you’re covered will depend on the exact wording of your policy.
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