The 2019-nCoV outbreak has reached pandemic level since the first cases were reported in central China in December 2019. The disease, which has now been officially named Covid-19, has affected 45,171 individuals worldwide, as of February 12. The death toll has surpassed 1100, most of them in mainland China. The infection has also spread to 27 other countries, including the UAE where 8 cases have been confirmed so far. 

But there’s another problem that’s spreading faster than the Coronavirus – And it’s called ‘Confusion’! Needless to say, the respiratory illness, which can cause anything from mild sickness to severe illness and even death, is a real threat to global human health. Amid the Covid-19 scare, travelers are uncertain of the scope of their travel insurance and whether they should consider calling off their plans.

The Souqalmal team helps clear the air and answers some important questions in this regard.

Are you entitled to a refund if you call off your travel plans?

The quick answer is no. Travel insurance policies exclude losses caused directly or indirectly by epidemics or pandemics. 

There is, however, an exclusion that applies to this case. If your travel insurance policy was obtained before the pandemic became a ‘known event’, you may be entitled to a refund. A ‘known event’ is a recognized occurrence that threatens the policyholder’s health or disrupts their travel plans. The date in this case is January 21, 2020. Policies obtained before this date have a better chance of covering losses.

[Related: Buying Health Insurance in the UAE: More Than Just a Formality]

In addition, travelers who are under mandatory government ordered quarantine may be covered if they need to cancel or revise their travel plans. Also, customers who had purchased the ‘Cancel for Any Reason’ optional extra with their policy and who meet the requirements of coverage for that product may cancel their trip and receive reimbursement for a portion of their loss. However, you must contact your insurance provider prior to cancelling your travel arrangements.

If you are uncertain of your travel insurance coverage, your best bet is to contact your airline as well as your accommodation provider and check their cancellation policy. Most airlines and travel providers are allowing customers the flexibility of cancelling their trip for a refund or change in travel dates free of charge when traveling to a destination affected by nCoV. 

What happens if your travel supplier cancels your trip?

In most cases, policyholders will be able to claim directly for disruptions caused by cancellation of flights and other travel bookings by operators due to Coronavirus. You may even get a refund or a rebooking option, courtesy of your travel insurance provider in such a case. 

[Related: Why is your health insurance premium higher than last year?]

Can you buy travel insurance now?

A travel insurance plan obtained now will most likely not cover you against Covid-19 or any related claims since it would now be expected that the policy was entered into with awareness of the outbreak and its developments. You may, however, talk to your insurance provider and explore the feasibility of a ‘Cancel for Any Reason’ add-on.

What happens if you contract the disease while traveling?

Coverage for emergency medical treatment, transportation and trip interruption will be available to a policyholder if he contracts the disease while traveling. 

The bottom line..

As a precautionary measure to confront the outbreak of the Coronavirus, the UAE has suspended all flights to and from China, except Beijing, starting February 5. If you still have any immediate plans to travel to China, the government urges you to reconsider them.

It should be noted that the information provided in this article is general in nature. Most travel insurance providers are reviewing individual circumstances of each policyholder at this point before deciding on an outcome. It is recommended that you get in touch with your insurance provider to check what your specific policy entails.

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