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Summer losses pass $4.5 billion, but pandemic could hinder claims work

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Insurance losses from catastrophes since the start of the last bushfire season have raced past $4.5 billion, and there are concerns that COVID-19 restrictions could slow down some of the hundreds of thousands of claims.

Losses from the bushfire catastrophe which hit NSW, Victoria, SA and Queensland have risen to $2.2 billion from more than 31,000 claims, according to the latest Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) figures. About 36% of building claims are already closed, along with 70% of contents claims.

January’s hailstorms across NSW, Victoria, ACT and Queensland have generated losses of $1.2 billion from almost 108,000 claims, with about 15% of building claims and 15% of motor claims closed.

Losses from floods and storms in Queensland and NSW last month have risen to almost $677 million from 77,598 claims, while losses from a Queensland hailstorm in November are now estimated at $368 million from 25,000 claims.

Smaller fires in Queensland and NSW in September and October had combined losses of $56 million.

ICA spokesman Campbell Fuller told that ramped-up measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak could slow down progress of claims.

“Insurers are examining the impact that restrictions may have on the capability of insurers and service partners to handle catastrophe-related claims and recovery,” he said.

As governments continue to tighten restrictions, this “may have an impact on what can be done”, he said.