30 Jan 2020

Q&A: How coronavirus will affect travel and business insurance

From First Up, 5:48 am on 30 January 2020

The coronavirus has raised the issue of insurance both for tourists and tourism operators - who's entitled to what and what happens to those who booked a trip to China before the outbreak?

Blank travel insurance form and map on background

Questions have been asked about the impact of coronavirus on insurance. Photo: 123RF

Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton says if you purchased your travel insurance before the outbreak was none, then your travel insurance should cover you for any loss that you have incurred as a result of the coronavirus.

"[That might] have been cancellations of planes, additional accommodation costs and things like that. It's important that you keep receipts of all of that if you are making a claim. But importantly you will have to purchase your travel insurance prior to the known date of the outbreak. 

"There's some variance around when that date was established. I know some insurers that are looking at the 19th of January, some are looking at 21st of January. It'll be important to contact your travel agent or your insurer whoever you bought your insurance off to clarify what the position is. 

"If you are a person now that is seeking to purchase travel insurance and wondering whether or not you would be covered for any disruption as a result of the coronavirus. Well, as the outbreak is now known, it would be extremely unlikely that you would be able to purchase that cover. 

Pandemic cover?

"Just to clarify the World Health Organisation has yet and has not declared a global pandemic. But if the World Health Organisation declared the global pandemic, then that would trigger an exclusion. 

"So, a pandemic has potentially such astronomical costs globally, that it's simply not possible for insurers or reinsurers to be able to calculate the risk and costs of a global pandemic. So it has been for a long time a standard exclusion in policies."

How about for businesses?

"So with businesses, it's not too dissimilar as well. For businesses, again, standard business interruption - so this is policy that businesses can take out for covering them for losses to their business that may be incurred - standard business interruption policies are triggered by a material damage to your property or equipment, in this case, that has not occurred. 

"This is a virus that has emerged in China, Wuhan, and that is not material damage. Now, there maybe a very small number of businesses who have looked at purchasing what we call contingent business interruption. So that ... is contingent on certain specified events occurring in order to trigger the policy to pay out.

"Now, it would depend on the policy specific to that business as to whether they have any cover for this sort of eventuality. That is, if you were say a tourism operator, and you were going to experience a lower number of tourists coming through as a result of this.

"But as I say, that's something that if you are unsure about you should talk to your insurance broker, who can advise you whether you have that cover, but it is more unlikely that you have taken that out, I suspect."

  • https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/408435/nzer-in-wuhan-awaits-evacuation-i-just-don-t-want-to-spread-the-virus