Three more travel insurers withdraw cover for coronavirus

The travel insurers Aviva, InsureandGo and the Post Office have followed LV= and withdrawn cover for future coronavirus claims.

LV= shocked the travel industry on Wednesday night when it announced that it would stop selling all travel insurance policies with immediate effect due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The insurance giant Aviva said on Thursday that it had halted all single-trip direct travel insurance for new customers travelling to Italy “to reflect the current risks posed by coronavirus”.

Customers buying cover for trips to other destinations will no longer be able to select its “travel disruption” or “airspace closure” add-ons, Aviva said.

The move has been prompted by the World Health Organization declaration of a pandemic, and is likely to be followed by other insurers. It means that anyone who has not already bought cover for future holidays will be unlikely to be able to get coronavirus cover.

The Post Office said it would continue to sell travel insurance policies but there is no longer cover provided for any claims related to Covid-19 for policies purchased after 11 March 2020 – the date of the WHO’s a pandemic announcement.

What is Covid-19 – the illness that started in Wuhan?

It is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals.

What are the symptoms this coronavirus causes?

The virus can cause pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work. Recovery depends on the strength of the immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.

Should I go to the doctor if I have a cough?

In the UK, the medical advice is that if you have recently travelled from areas affected by coronavirus, you should:

  • stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu
  • call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the area

More NHS advice on what to do if you think you have been exposed to the virus can be found here, and the full travel advice to UK nationals is available here.

Is the virus being transmitted from one person to another?

China’s national health commission confirmed human-to-human transmission in January, and there have been such transmissions elsewhere.

How many people have been affected?

As of 9 March, more than 110,000 people have been infected in more than 80 countries, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

There have over 3,800 deaths globally. Just over 3,000 of those deaths have occurred in mainland China. 62,000 people have recovered from the coronavirus.

Why is this worse than normal influenza, and how worried are the experts?

We don’t yet know how dangerous the new coronavirus is, and we won’t know until more data comes in. Seasonal flu typically has a mortality rate below 1% and is thought to cause about 400,000 deaths each year globally. Sars had a death rate of more than 10%.

Another key unknown is how contagious the coronavirus is. A crucial difference is that unlike flu, there is no vaccine for the new coronavirus, which means it is more difficult for vulnerable members of the population – elderly people or those with existing respiratory or immune problems – to protect themselves. Hand-washing and avoiding other people if you feel unwell are important. One sensible step is to get the flu vaccine, which will reduce the burden on health services if the outbreak turns into a wider epidemic.

Have there been other coronaviruses?

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (Mers) are both caused by coronaviruses that came from animals. In 2002, Sars spread virtually unchecked to 37 countries, causing global panic, infecting more than 8,000 people and killing more than 750. Mers appears to be less easily passed from human to human, but has greater lethality, killing 35% of about 2,500 people who have been infected.

Sarah BoseleyHannah Devlin and Martin Belam

InsureandGo, owned by Mapfre, said on Thursday morning that customers who bought a policy after 11.59pm on 11 March will not be able to make any claim relating to the virus. Travellers who bought policies from all the firms prior to 11 March will be able to bring claims as before, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said.

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The Post Office said it was monitoring the situation very closely and would update its travel alerts webpage with the latest information for policy holders.

“Insurance is designed to provide cover for unforeseen and unexpected events and is priced on this basis. The outbreak of the Coronavirus means there is an increased likelihood of disruption to people’s travel plans. We envisage that these decisions, affecting only Aviva’s travel insurance new business, will be temporary actions,” said an Aviva spokeswoman.

As the coronavirus outbreak has spiralled out of control travellers and insurers have watched on with increasing horror. Travel insurance cancellation typically only kicks in when the Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to a country. Travel disruption cover will sometimes step in, but it is limited and often absent from the cheaper policies.

Travellers faced with flight cancellations, lockdowns, and a growing list of countries refusing entry to tourists have found to their cost that they are not covered.

If the UK government advised against all but essential travel to, say, Spain the cost of claims would likely send some insurers to the brink. Despite this, the number of people buying travel insurance rose sharply last month.

An ABI spokesperson said: “Existing policies remain unaffected. Travel insurance for new customers remains widely available, so people should shop around for the cover that best meets their needs. In a competitive insurance market, insurers will be monitoring carefully the fast-moving developments in the coronavirus outbreak, and will keep their position under constant review as the situation develops.

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