With more than 80,000 cases and 2,700 deaths worldwide resulting from COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, countries around the world are not just limiting travel into and out of Wuhan but also mainland China.
This article was last updated at 3pm on 25 February 2020.
During the Budget 2020 announcement, it was shared that $800 million has been set aside to tide the country through COVID-19, most of which will go to the Ministry of Health. Sectors directly affected by COVID-19 will also receive additional support.
Singapore citizens have been advised to wash our hands frequently and maintain good personal hygiene. We have also been advised to be socially responsible by wearing a mask, especially when you are not feeling well. Masks contain filters that prevent germs from being spread. The Government is even providing every Singapore household a pack of 4 masks from 1 February to 29 February 2020.
In light of the developing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in China, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has issued a travel advisory for Singaporeans to defer all travel to Hubei Province and all non-essential travel to Mainland China. Companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Apple have also restricted all non-essential travel to China.
In view of the recent increase in the number of confirmed cases in the Republic of Korea, MOH has also issued a travel advisory for travellers to avoid non-essential travel to Daegu and Cheongdo in South Korea.
To guard against the novel coronavirus, the Singapore Government has announced that there will be no entry or transit through Singapore for:
- All new visitors with recent Hubei travel history within the last 14 days
- Holders of PRC passports issued in Hubei
New visas for holders of Chinese passports issued in Hubei will also be suspended.
With such an advisory issued, what will happen if you defer your travel to mainland China? Will your travel insurance cover the trip cancellation? The MOH website states that you are advised to check with your respective travel insurance providers for information on coverage and compensation.
Will my travel insurance cover cancellations made in light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Travel insurance covers travellers for a multitude of things, including cancellation and delays of flights, hotels, missing luggage, medical expenses and more. However, in situations like the Coronavirus, an outbreak of a virus often has limited coverage under travel insurance plans for trip cancellation purposes.
Many airlines have suspended flights to China cancelling their flights to China, these include Singapore Airlines, Qantas Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways and more. Singapore Airlines’ budget carrier Scoot cancelled its daily flight to Wuhan, and customers already booked on those flights will receive emails with further information regarding refunds. Major hotel chains such as Hilton, Marriott, Accor and InterContinental have offered free changes or cancellations to bookings up to February 8.
Some insurance companies have also issued announcements on their sites regarding the Coronavirus outbreak and whether claims arising from Coronavirus-related disruptions will be covered.
Here’s what some of them have announced on their site (as of 10am on 24 February 2020):
“We will not provide coverage for trip cancellations to any countries in relation to Wuhan Virus for travel insurance policy issued from 22 Jan 2020 onwards. For our customers who purchased the policies on 21 Jan 2020 or before, we will respond based on the terms and conditions and the benefits claimed.”
“Only travel policies purchased before 20 Jan 2020 are eligible for claims related to the Novel Coronavirus outbreak. Claims unrelated to this event remain covered, subject to our policy terms and conditions.”
“Customers are eligible for trip cancellation claims, if they purchased our travel insurance plans and booked their trips to:
1) Wuhan before 11 January 2020; or
2) Mainland China before 27 January 2020
Customers are eligible for claims arising from the coronavirus outbreak if they departed Singapore for:
1) Wuhan before 11 January 2020; or
2) Mainland China (excluding Wuhan) before 27 January 2020
In view of the Ministry of Health’s advisory to defer non-essential travel to mainland China, our travel insurance does not cover any claims arising from the outbreak, which is deemed a “known” event, for trips to or passing through the country if the policy or trip is purchased on the dates stated above or later.
Customers who have not departed Singapore and wish to proceed with their trip are not eligible for any claims arising from the outbreak.“
“The Novel Coronavirus outbreak has been widely reported in the media, and alerts have been issued by the World Health Organisation and the Ministry of Health, Singapore. ERGO Singapore is treating this Event as known and foreseen, effective 30 January 2020.
ERGO Singapore will not cover any claims arising from this Event if your policy was issued on or after 30 January 2020, 0001 hours. For policies issued prior to 30 Jan 2020, 0001 hours, we will assess claims based on the policy terms and conditions.
Notwithstanding the above, for travel to Wuhan or Mainland China, ERGO Singapore will not cover any claims arising from this Event, if your policy was issued on or after:
(a) 20 January 2020, 8 pm for insured(s) travelling to Wuhan
(b) 27 January 2020, 7 pm for insured(s) travelling to the rest of Mainland China,
Subject to the terms and conditions of your policy.”
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared on Thursday (Jan 30) that the coronavirus epidemic in China now constitutes a public health emergency of international concern. We are treating this Event as known and foreseen, effective 31 January 2020. As such, any claims arising globally from this Event will not be covered unless your policy was issued prior to 31 January 2020, 0001 hours.Notwithstanding the above, Etiqa Singapore will honour claims related to / caused by this Event, subject to the terms and conditions of your policy, if your policy was issued before:
- 22 January 2020, 0001 hours for Insured(s) travelling to Wuhan
- 27 January 2020, 0001 hours for Insured(s) travelling to the rest of Mainland China (excluding Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan)
As the situation develops, cover to the other areas are subject to change.“
“For travellers going to Mainland China, please note that the Wuhan virus is currently considered a known event and there will be no coverage for any claims arising from the Wuhan virus for your travel to Mainland China if you activate your travel insurance now. Travellers can file a claim for Cancelling/Shortening/Postponing your trip or Trip Disruption as the case may be, and according to the policy conditions, if they have purchased their policies before 8pm on 20 Jan 2020 (for travel to Wuhan), or before 7pm on 27 Jan 2020 (for travel to the rest of Mainland China).”
Source: NTUC Income
“Our travel insurance does not cover any claims arising from Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak for trips to or passing through these destinations if the policy or trip is purchased on these dates or later: 22 Jan 2020 for Wuhan, 23 Jan 2020 for Hubei Province, 27 Jan 2020 for Mainland China (excluding Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan). As the situation develops, cover to other areas are subject to change. Please refer to Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the latest update.”
“Policyholders who have purchased their policies AFTER
- 22 Jan 2020, 8pm for travel to Wuhan & Hubei,
- 27 Jan 2020, 7pm for travel to the rest of Mainland China
Not covered for claims arising directly or indirectly from COVID-19 outbreak as it is considered as a known event.”
From these announcements, it’s clear that any travel insurance purchased after specific dates will not cover you for claims made as a result of or reasons related to the Coronavirus outbreak. If you are unsure, we suggest that you check with your travel insurance provider for more details.
For healthcare workers working in public institutions, cancelling holiday plans due to the COVID-19 situation could be inevitable. MOM has shared that help will be provided to defray the costs incurred if healthcare workers cannot get a refund from their travel agent or insurance company.
Importance of buying travel insurance early
Frankly, no one could have predicted the onset of the Coronavirus or the severity of its impact globally.
What we can do, however, is to protect ourselves from similar future outbreaks and unknown situations. You can consider purchasing a single trip travel insurance policy the moment you confirm the destination and dates of your overseas trip. Frequent travellers can opt to purchase an annual travel plan.
For most cases, if you’ve bought your travel insurance before the advisory was announced (different insurers may use different dates), the trip disruption, postponement or cancellation will be covered up to your policy’s benefit limit.
You should also pay closer attention to the T&Cs of the insurance policy documents. For example, some travel insurance plans offer trip cancellations for any reason (be it as part of the policy or as an upgrade or add-on), which would then cover you for a situation like the Coronavirus outbreak.
The truth is a lot of us end up buying travel insurance at the very last minute. At times (we’re all guilty as charged), we buy it minutes before stepping onto the airplane. However, purchasing our travel insurance weeks, or even months, before the actual trip can save our wallets from unprecedented costs incurred when we are pushed to cancel our trip.
Not sure where to look for the best plans? We got you covered. Browse through some of the best travel insurance you can get for your upcoming trip this 2020.
Common FAQs related to COVID-19
Q: Are outbreaks like the COVID-19 covered by regular travel insurance policies?
Ans: Generally, regular travel insurance policies cover you if your trip cancellation/ disruption is made due to an unforeseen event. However, insurance companies now consider COVID-19 to be a known event and hence might not provide coverage for any trip cancellation/ disruption claims arising from the COVID-19.
Q: Why are insurance companies not covering claims made due to COVID-19?
Ans: Regular travel insurance policies cover you if your trip disruption is made due to an unforeseen event. A known event, is an event that the average person would have been aware of through the mass media/ travel advisory, that interrupts your trip.
For COVID-19, in the early stages of the outbreak, it was still considered an unknown event. Most insurers now consider COVID-19 a known event and have issued advisories on travel insurance claims. Hence, whether travel insurance covers the losses from COVID-19 largely depends on when the policy was activated. Insurance policies bought after the date when the insurer labels it as a known event will not be claimable.
Q: If I cancel my trip now due to the COVID-19, can I get a refund on my travel insurance?
Ans: Above are the cancellation terms for some of our travel insurance providers. Essentially, all providers share similar cancellation terms. A notice period needs to be given to the insurer before the policy date starts.
For Single Trip policies, usually only premium plans will be refunded, and this is dependent if you had filed any claims prior. For Annual Trip policies, the premium refunded will be on a prorated basis and dependent if any claims have been made.
Q: Can I make a claim for trip cancellation due to the COVID-19 outbreak?
Ans: It will depend on your policy purchase date, policy and insurer. Currently, unless you’re travelling to mainland China, trip cancellations and delays are not claimable. In the event that you choose to proceed with your travel plans, any inconveniences or medical claims made due to the Wuhan Coronavirus, might not be covered.
Q: If I visit a country that does not have any reported COVID-19 cases, am I still covered by my travel insurance?
Ans: For now, insurers have only issued advisories for travel to mainland China. That said, as this is a developing situation it will be subject to change.
Q: What do I do if I am admitted to a hospital overseas and do not have enough money with me for a deposit?
Ans: You will need to call your insurer’s 24-hour hotline (found on your insurance policy or their website) and they will guide you on what to do next.
Note: In the event that you need to be hospitalised, do make sure that you have to be admitted to a government licensed and/or registered hospital to facilitate claims.
Q: What can I do to reduce the chances of contacting COVID-19 when overseas?
- Avoid crowded places and close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness
- Observe good personal hygiene
- Practise frequent hand washing with soap
- Bring hand sanitiser along with you wherever you go
- Avoid consumption of raw or undercooked meats
- Seek medical attention promptly if you are feeling unwell
Q: Which countries should I avoid travelling to?
Ans: MOH advises travellers to avoid travel to Hubei province in China, and to defer all non-essential travel to Mainland China. MOH has also issued a travel advisory for travellers to avoid non-essential travel to Daegu and Cheongdo in Republic of Korea. MOH also reminds the public to continue to exercise caution when travelling to the rest of the Republic of Korea.
Q: What help does the Singapore government provide for people infected with COVID-19?
Ans: The Ministry of Health (MOH) has said that the Singapore government will be paying for hospital bills incurred by coronavirus patients in public hospitals. However, this coverage does not extend to outpatient treatment at general practitioner clinics or polyclinics, nor does it apply to treatment sought at private medical facilities.
Q: Will my travel insurance cover cancellation due to COVID-19?
Ans: Due to a drop in demand due to the coronavirus, airlines such as Singapore Airlines have cancelled some of their scheduled flights. If your flight is cancelled, the airlines could provide re-accommodation, changes or refunds. Some travel providers are also offering to waive the fees incurred when you postpone or cancel your travel booking.
You can check with your travel provider to find out if the fees incurred will be waived. However, in the event that you are unable to get a refund from travel providers when your travel plans are cut short, postponed or cancelled, you can make claims on your Travel Insurance.
Read these next:
Travel Insurance Promotions and Discounts for January 2020
6 Times You Wish You Had Bought Travel Insurance
10 Tips To Buying The Right Travel Insurance in Singapore
A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Buy Travel Insurance on Your Own
What Type of Travel Insurance Should You Buy?
By Ching Sue Mae
A flat white, an adventure-filled travel and a good workout is her fuel. Sue Mae enjoys sharing knowledge on personal finance while chasing the dream of financial independence.
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