New travel insurance policies may not cover coronavirus disruptions

As coronavirus continues to spread, its impact is being felt around the world.

The tourism industry has been hit particularly hard as a result of fewer people travelling, with costs mounting to as much as £87bn in the aviation industry alone.

With thousands of holidays cancelled at the last minute due to new rules imposed by governments to limit the spread of the deadly bug, some travel insurers are pulling products that will cover holidaymakers if there is disruption.

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As an example, Italy, with over 9,000 confirmed cases, is now the worst affected country outside of China.

In response, the entire country has gone into lockdown, with the UK government warning citizens to avoid all but essential travel there and airlines cancelling flights at the last minute.

Those with upcoming travel to Italy will have seen their bookings cancelled at the last minute.

While travellers who have booked a package holiday will have been covered by ABTA or ATOL, those who have booked separate flights and accommodation, as well as any excursions, may have to turn to their travel insurance to recoup some of the sunk cost.

But as unexpected costs like these add up, travel insurers are having to adjust the products they offer. For holidaymakers, it means a new need to double check your policy will cover you if you do decide to travel.

Aviva are among the first to adjust their policies.

As well as their “core” travel insurance product, Aviva used to offer ”travel disruption” and “airspace closure”, which customers could buy as add-ons. 

However, in response to coronavirus, the company has pulled these two add ons for new customers.

A spokesperson told The Independent: “Following a review of Aviva’s travel insurance, we have decided to adjust our cover to reflect the current risks posed by Coronavirus.

“This means that while new Aviva direct travel insurance customers can still purchase our core travel insurance, they will not be able to select our ‘travel disruption’ or ‘airspace closure’ add-ons.”

It means that those who have purchased new policies will only be covered if they decide to cancel their holiday if their flights have been cancelled or have been delayed for more than 24 hours.

However, you won’t be covered if you decide to cancel or want to return early under the core policy.

The company stressed that customers who had previously bought policies with the add ons are still covered – they are just not available to new policyholders for the time being.

Aviva added: “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.”

Another insurer, Sportscover Direct, also announced that customers who purchased policies between 11am 9 March and 10.30am 11 March could be subject to a coronavirus exclusion.

It reads: “It is understood and agreed that this insurance does not cover any loss, damage, liability, cost or expense of whatever nature directly or indirectly caused by, arising out of, contributed to by, or resulting from “COVID-19” or any mutation or variation thereof.”

The exclusion does not apply to products sold before or after those periods – The Independent has approached Sportscover Direct to clarify this.

The Association of British Insurers told The Independent: “These are decisions by individual insurers. Insurance is not designed to protect against the inevitable, so some policies are being temporarily modified. There is still availability in the market and people should speak to a broker if they are not sure.”

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