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Coronavirus – your travel insurance questions answered

Find out what the Coronavirus means for your travel plans and insurance.

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  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the New Zealand government has changed the travel advice for all countries to “Do Not Travel” (Level 4). Read more about it at the SafeTravel website. As of 10 April 2020, anyone returning home from overseas is required to go into managed isolation at an approved facility for a minimum of 14 days.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) officially declared a global emergency on 30 January, pointing to the international spread of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) as a major concern.

Since then, the New Zealand government has ramped up its containment efforts by blocking foreign nationals from travelling to New Zealand, while placing returning Kiwis into quarantine or managed isolation for 14 days.

Many New Zealanders are asking questions about how their travel insurance will support them if they’re suddenly out of pocket or in harm’s way due to the epidemic.

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t exactly straightforward.

The situation evolved rapidly, so how your insurance company responds this week might not be the same way it responds next month. The best way to find out how your policy can help is to call your insurance company directly and keep an eye on SafeTravel.

Can I get my money back with travel insurance if I cancel my trip?

Most travel insurers won’t cover any coronavirus-related claim if you bought a policy after January 2020. This includes cancellations and medical cover. This is because travel insurance is designed to cover unforeseen issues and coronavirus has been considered a known event since this time.

Usually, a level-4 “Do Not Travel” travel alert must have been issued by the government before your insurance company considers paying out for a change of mind. New Zealand’s level-4 travel alert is now in place for all countries.

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What do I do if my flights have been cancelled or delayed?

With a travel ban now in place and a large portion of international flights cancelled, you are probably entitled to a refund from the airline itself. Air New Zealand is offering flexible flight change options – including holding your fare in credit for up to 12 months – but normal refund rules apply if you decide to cancel your flight.

If you have a booking with an overseas airline, check the website for official updates regarding flight cancellations, changes and refunds.

Again, it’s worth communicating directly with your airline to see what help is on offer. Alternatively, if you bought your ticket with a credit card, you might be able to lodge a dispute for a cancelled or unfulfilled service.

Does travel insurance cover me for Coronavirus if I travel?

Now that there is a level-4 travel alert for all destinations, you are not covered if you decide to leave the country.

What are epidemic and pandemic exclusions in travel insurance?

Often, general travel insurance policies have an exclusion which restricts what you can claim in relation to epidemics or pandemics, which means that, even if you bought your policy before your insurance company’s cut-off date, you might not be covered in the way you think you are.

If your insurance company has an exclusion, you can find it in the product disclosure statement (PDS). Alternatively, you can call your insurer directly to find out exactly how you’re covered. In situations like this, insurers usually assess on a case-by-case basis, so it’s always worth communicating with them directly.

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