The novel coronavirus pandemic is slowly and steadily impacting the entire world. With each passing day, more and more people are getting infected by the COVID-19 disease forcing countries to take stringent measures to control its spread.
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China, Italy, Spain, France and Belgium are some of the countries that are under lockdown. Incoming foreigners and citizens from coronavirus-affected countries are banned by most governments across the globe, including India, raising a question mark on the pre-booked trips of people in the coming weeks. So if you are having sleepless nights wondering whether your travel insurance will cover coronavirus disease or is there is a coronavirus travel insurance available, then you are not alone.
Coronavirus disease or COVID-19 is a new strain of virus belonging to the family of coronaviruses (CoV). It originated in China’s Wuhan city that comes under Hubei province and the first case was reported on 31 December 2019. This disease has never been identified in humans before and is believed to have been transmitted from animals to humans. COVID-19 has an incubation period of up to 14 days with an average of five days. Its shows flu-like symptoms like dry cough, and high fever along with difficulty in breathing, etc.
The coronavirus disease is highly contagious and spread across 169 countries across the globe. The World Health Organisation (WHO) on 11 March 2020 declared coronavirus disease as a pandemic. As per WHO, there are 2,46,275 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across 169 countries with 10,038 confirmed deaths (as of 20 March 2020). While China and Italy are the worst-affected countries, India alone has reported about 223 confirmed cases along with five (5) fatalities.
Several countries such as China, Italy and the US have declared a national health emergency. India has put several restrictions on people within the country and its citizens coming from abroad to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic. All existing visas until 15 April 2020 stand suspended besides land borders with neighbouring countries being closed. People arriving from abroad, including Indian citizens, have to compulsorily quarantine for 14 days on their arrival in India. Moreover, Indians citizens are strongly advised not to travel to China, Italy, Iran, Spain, South Korea, France and Germany.
As per the latest travel advisory issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare on 19 March 2020, all international flights to India have been banned from 22-29 March 2020. Previously, the Indian government had banned the entry of foreigners and Indian citizens from the European Union, United Kingdom, Turkey, Malaysia, the Philippines and Afghanistan until 31 March 2020.
With coronavirus pandemic posing serious threats to the global health situation, travellers and tourism industry is one of the worst affected. The government has banned international flights coming to India and have issued travel advisories to avoid any non-essential travel abroad. As a result, Indians are worried about losing money on postponing/ cancelling their trip. Even domestic travellers are unwilling to continue with their trips as the government has advised everyone to stay home.
This is the ideal situation where coronavirus travel insurance should come to the rescue of people who have to delay or cancel their travel. However, when it comes to coronavirus disease there is limited relief available through a travel insurance policy.
It is natural to not want to travel in this uncertain situation. In case the insured traveller wishes to delay his trip for a few weeks or cancels his trip altogether, his losses will be covered by his coronavirus travel insurance. This is because insurance companies in India cover travel delays/ cancellations due to an infectious disease. The claims will be settled as per the terms and conditions of the policy at the time of buying. However, the policy should have been purchased before the government announced travel restrictions due to the coronavirus disease.
There may be some people who would decide to go ahead with their domestic/ international trip to avoid suffering losses from trip delay or cancellation. But what if he gets infected by the COVID-19 disease during his trip? Will coronavirus travel insurance covers his medical expenses? Well, the answer is Yes.
Coronavirus travel insurance will cover emergency hospitalization and medical treatment expenses incurred on the treatment of COVID-19 during his trip. Whether it’s domestic travel insurance policy or international travel insurance plan, emergency medical expenses will be covered as long as the policy was purchased before the government had imposed travel restrictions due to coronavirus disease. The terms and conditions of the coronavirus travel insurance policy will remain unchanged as was at the time of its purchase.
It is not clear if the insurance companies in India will cover the expenses incurred on quarantine due to coronavirus while travelling. The insured traveller should check with his insurance provider to know about the cover for quarantine.
The Government of India has already issued a travel advisory urging people to avoid travelling anywhere, especially abroad, amidst the current situation of COVID-19. In case the insured traveller still goes ahead with his trip and faces an emergency due to the coronavirus disease, he will not be covered under the coronavirus travel insurance. This is because he would be travelling against government advisory and hence would be risking his life. None of the insurance companies will cover the insured taking an intentional risk and thus, he would be responsible for any monetary losses incurred as an outcome.
However, the insured will most likely be covered for any emergency medical expenses incurred because of contracting COVID-19 under the coronavirus travel insurance even if he travels against government restrictions.
In case a traveller purchases travel insurance after the government’s travel advisory, he would most likely not get coverage for coronavirus disease. This is because many insurance companies are not covering trip delays or cancellation claims arising out of the coronavirus disease. In fact, there are chances of finding this disease under the list of exclusions.
The sudden outbreak of coronavirus disease and its subsequent spread to countries outside China has painted a grim picture of the world population at large. In a bid to control its widespread transmission, the government has imposed travel bans discouraging people from travelling abroad, especially to coronavirus-affected countries. In times like this, it is important for all of us to exercise restraint from travelling unless extremely necessary, stay home and stay vigilant for any person with flu-like symptoms. Although if you need to travel urgently, you will be adequately covered under your coronavirus travel insurance.