On 7 January 2020, Chinese authorities confirmed they had identified a new virus originating out of Wuhan in the Hubei Province.
Since then, JMD Ross has been inundated with calls and emails from clients, naturally concerned about their future travel plans and how insurance may or may not respond.
The reality is, it’s a moving feast. Initially, it was largely business as usual, with only cancelled travel that was scheduled to the affected area being subject to insurance claims.
However, with the spread of the virus globally and, in particular, to Europe, the viability of many conferences, business trips and leisure holidays is being questioned.
Several events have been cancelled or postponed.
Some European jurisdictions are going to significantly greater lengths to manage the risk than just stockpiling toilet paper. Switzerland, for example, is cancelling all events likely to attract crowds of more than 150 people. Six Nations Rugby matches involving Italy are likely to be cancelled or played in empty stadiums in an effort to minimise the pandemic’s impact.
It is likely things will get worse before they get better. One constant for Australian travellers is that mere disinclination to travel is not covered by insurance. Travellers are urged to seek guidance for safe travel at DFAT’s Smart Traveller website (www.smartraveller.gov.au).
On Monday 2 March, JMD Ross received advice from most corporate travel insurers stating a fundamental change in their position. The COVID-19 virus is now deemed a “foreseen circumstance”, which means travel booked and policies purchased after that date may not be covered, should the travel later need to be cancelled.
Unlike corporate travel insurance policies, many leisure travel insurance products offered via travel agents or credit card providers contain exclusions for claims arising from pandemics. If you have a policy in place now or are about to purchase one, JMD Ross strongly recommends you identify the coverage position to ensure it is appropriate for your needs.
When travel cancellations or disruptions occur, JMD Ross recommends you:
- First contact your travel agent, airline or service providers and endeavour to seek refunds or make alternate travel arrangements based on existing tickets.
- Only lodge a claim after that avenue has been exhausted.
- When lodging a claim, it is imperative to include all relevant documents, including original and amended itineraries, to substantiate your loss.
For more information about COVID-19, click here.
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