Coronavirus Travel Advice Update
By Suzanne Oke on Sep 28, 2020 in P J Hayman Update |
With the coronavirus pandemic situation developing regularly, we created this page on the 30th January as a dynamic resource. We aim to provide all relevant and up-to-date information relating to how COVID-19 is affecting travel insurance and travel in general.
The Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advise that British nationals should avoid all non-essential international travel. However, on the 4th July a list of countries exempt from this was published – available on the FCDO website. This is under constant review, and each country’s status could change at any time.
From the 1st September, separate nations within the UK began their own lists of exemptions. Click the following links for details of exemptions for persons arriving in Wales, and for exemptions for residents and visitors to Scotland.
If a travel provider intends to run any trip as planned, we would urge the policyholder to insist that the dates are moved. We cannot provide cover if travel is made while the FCDO advises against non-essential travel.
Opening Hours – due to the social isolation measures put in place by the UK government, we are now operating remotely, maintaining full availability from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. We will endeavour to maintain the same high level of service to you even during these challenging times.
We have prepared some FAQs to guide you through how the developing situation will impact travel insurance:
Is insurance valid if the insured travels against the advice if the FCDO?
The majority of policies will not provide cover if travel is against the advice of the FCDO. This would be for ‘All Travel’ and ‘All but Essential Travel’. If the area is classified as ‘All but Essential Travel’ and customers are still planning to go they must ensure they have adequate travel insurance cover, which may require them to purchase an alternative policy to cover the one-off trip.
What classes as essential travel (FCDO)?
The FCDO does not have a definition of what they class as ‘Essential Travel’. The FCDO website states ‘Whether travel is essential or not is your own decision. You may have urgent family or business commitments to attend to. Circumstances differ from person to person. Only you can make an informed decision based on the risks’.
In the event of a claim the customer will need to evidence this with written statements and proof that all other possibilities have been exhausted. If there is any mention of ‘like’ or ‘want’ (desirables) to travel, then it is more than likely that the circumstances would not be deemed essential and the customer would be seen as exposing themselves to unnecessary risk.
Will the policy cover medical treatment for the Coronavirus? And will repatriation be covered?
If emergency medical costs are covered on the policy and the insured catches Coronavirus or requires medical treatment, then yes cover will be in place for emergency and necessary treatment. Customers should be aware that our policies are travel insurance policies and not private medical insurance meaning that there is no cover for any medical expenses incurred in private medical facilities if we have confirmed that medically capable public facilities are available.
Please contact the Medical Emergency Assistance Team when required – the contact details will be available on the policy wording.
Policies may provide cover for repatriation when it is medically necessary. If so, the Assistance Team will liaise with a treating doctor(s) about a treatment plan and if required obtain a ‘fit to fly’ certificate. We also liaise with the affected part(ties) to advise on, and put in place, suitable repatriation plans to return the insured home as soon as it is medically safe to do so in order to achieve optimal recovery. Our team are unable to make arrangements to repatriate where it is against local advice, where travel is restricted or where it would pose a risk to other passengers.
Is there cover for cancellation due to the Coronavirus?
This type of event is usually not covered across the travel insurance industry for cancellation. This is because most policies have specific reasons for cancellation and the “fear of an epidemic, pandemic, infection or allergic reaction” is not one of those reasons.
We would advise travellers who have booked package holidays to a destination affected by the viral outbreak and looking to cancel their trip or amend their travel plans to contact their travel agent or tour operator in the first instance.
If a traveller is quarantined due to the Coronavirus, what cover is in place?
If the insured is admitted to hospital the policy will usually provide assistance with returning home when they have been discharged.
If they are admitted to hospital please contact the Medical Emergency Assistance Team – the contact details will be available on the policy wording.
If the insured is confined to accommodation the policy may contribute towards the cost of food and additional accommodation, some may also include the additional costs of getting home. Check the specific policy wording for more information on this.
What happens if the insured arrives at their holiday destination and is refused entry due to the virus?
If travel is made to an area which the FCO advise against travel to, there would be no cover under the travel insurance policies as this would be considered as a known event.
If travel is made to an area and the FCO advice changes after leaving home, the traveller should contact their travel agent or tour operator for information on the availability of flights or refunds in the first instance.
If entry is refused at passport/border control, the traveller should contact their airline or transport provider to arrange to change the return ticket to allow an early return.
Is cover available if the insured wishes to cut a trip short due to the Coronavirus?
This type of event is usually not covered across the travel insurance industry for cutting short a trip. This is because most policies have specific reasons for cutting a trip short and the “fear of an epidemic, pandemic, infection or allergic reaction” is not one of those reasons.
We would advise travellers who have booked package holidays in this situation to contact their travel agent or tour operator for information on the availability of flights in the first instance.
If travelling independently from a tour operator or travel agent, the insured should make their own arrangements to leave by either altering return tickets where possible, or booking onto an alternative commercial flight or mode of transport. Claims for independent traveller’s additional expenses in returning home earlier than planned, where medically justified, will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
The policy may provide cover for cutting short a trip due to changes in FCO advice. Check the policy wording for more information on this.
Is cover available for travel disruption caused by the Coronavirus?
If the insured is unable to return home on their planned date the policy may contribute towards the cost of food and additional accommodation, it may also include the additional costs of getting home
Instructions from local authorities should be followed as it is more than likely that quarantine will be enforced.
Travellers should contact their travel agent or tour operator for assistance in the first instance.
The policy may contribute towards the cost of food and additional accommodation, some may also include the additional costs of getting home. Check the policy wording for more information on this.
If the insured has a stop-over in an area which the FCO advises against travel to, is the insured still covered?
We would suggest that if that part of the journey has not started, the insured should contact the airline to change their travel plans to move on to the next part of the travel itinerary.
If the insured arrives at their stop-over airport and entry is denied due to the virus they should contact their airline to change their travel plans to move on to the next part of the travel itinerary.
Update from UK Foreign Travel, as of Tuesday 17th March:
- The FCO advise British nationals against all but essential international travel.
If you are in a country affected by travel restrictions
- You must follow the advice of the local authorities.
- Limit your movements to those necessary to return to the place where you live.
- If you wish to leave the country you are in, contact your airline or travel company and your insurance provider as soon as you are able, and keep up to date with the latest developments.
- Call the local emergency number if you believe you have symptoms. English speaking operators may be available.
If you are quarantined while you are abroad
- If the local authority where you are proposes to quarantine you for your own protection, you should follow their advice.
- If there are suspected cases of coronavirus where you are, you may need to remain in your hotel room or accommodation for 14 days, move to quarantine facilities, take tests for coronavirus and, if positive in some cases, be hospitalised abroad.
- You should also contact your airline or travel company, and your insurance provider as soon as you can. We only organise assisted departure in exceptional circumstances.
Our general advice to policy-holders at this time is:
- To take guidance as provided by the FCDO and adhere to its advice.
- See the latest information and advice for the public on the outbreak of coronavirus from the Department of Health and Social Care
- To not travel contrary to any travel restrictions as may be advised by any government or public/health authority.
- To speak with your travel provider regarding any possible change(s) to your travel itinerary.
- To continue to monitor any further advice as may be provided.
- The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) has also produced general advice on preparing for foreign travel and how individuals can help reduce the spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 outbreak.
More information about travel and the Coronavirus:
We will continue to monitor the situation and provide further updates as they become available.