Since the publication of this article, government guidance and travel regulations have changed rapidly. We recommend checking the government website for the most up-to-date advice, and contacting your travel agent and travel insurance provider for updates on any planned or current travel.
Travel insurers are sharing Government warnings about travel following the outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19, and offering travel advice for would-be travellers or those already abroad.
The UK government have issued advice warning would-be travellers against visiting Hubei Province in China, where the virus originated, and advising against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China.
Recent updates have also listed lockdown areas in northern Italy and cities in South Korea which it advises against visiting at present. A map of the specified areas has been posted on the gov.uk website. Updates are daily and potential travellers are now being advised to check the specific guidance for the country and region they are planning to travel to.
How does this affect travel insurance?
Travel insurance providers are advising that this type of event is not covered across the leisure travel insurance industry for claims relating to cancellation. This means that people planning to travel who are now looking to cancel in order to avoid virus-stricken areas or the risk of infection, may not have a cancellation claim paid.
What if I’m yet to travel?
The advice is to contact your airline or tour operator in the first instance, to find out if you can amend your plans or get a refund. If you are offered an alternative destination or different dates, typically insurers will be happy to transfer your cover to the rearranged trip, subject to a few terms.
If you can’t rearrange your trip to a different destination or date, if your travel agent or tour operator offers you a refund on your trip then some travel insurers will refund your premium.
Travel advice for those already abroad
If you are already abroad and considering returning to the UK earlier than planned due to the virus outbreak, you should contact your travel agent / provider for advice and information about the availability of flights home. Again, travel insurers are advising that most travel insurance policies would tend not to cover these circumstances.
If you are in a destination affected by the virus, you are advised to maintain good hand, respiratory and personal hygiene, and avoid visiting animal and bird markets or people who are ill with respiratory symptoms. You are also advised to follow the instructions of the authorities in the area.
It is possible that further travel restrictions to certain areas may be put in place with little or no advance notice, so you should check the Government’s travel advice on a regular basis.
Coronavirus in the UK
The figures for people tested and confirmed cases in the UK are changing on a daily basis.
For more information from the government on cases and risk level in the UK, what to do if you have symptoms, and what the government is doing about the virus, see here:
Information on travel insurance from Alpha Underwriting, issued 27th January 2020. Article last updated 13th March 2020.