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Insurers clarify coronavirus coverage

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The local insurance industry has warned that “broad exclusions normally apply” to pandemics and epidemics such as the current coronavirus outbreak.

But some insurers have announced that policyholders will be covered under specific circumstances.

Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan on December 31, has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It says there have been 14,557 confirmed cases globally, with 14,411 in China. There have been 304 deaths, all in China apart from one in the Philippines.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says while many travel insurers have exemptions “for outbreaks of infectious diseases and pandemics”, each insurer’s policy is different.

“Some travel insurance policies will cover travellers whose travel plans have been disrupted by the coronavirus or who have incurred medical expenses,” spokeswoman Lisa Kable told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“This will depend on when the policy was bought and when the claimant started their trip.”

The Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) says global pandemics are “generally not insurable and haven’t been for a long time”.

“This is because insurers can’t measure or understand what potential losses could eventuate from an outbreak of an infectious disease like this,” CEO Tim Grafton said.

Exclusions are not uniform across all policies, however.

Travel insurer TravelCard says it “recognises the enormous impact” the virus is having on the world and its travellers.

“We have made the decision to provide support to our customers by extending our leisure travel policy beyond its usual parameters,” CEO Peter Klemt said.

This will include assisting with the cost of repatriation and supporting those who want to return from China and Hong Kong earlier than planned.

Zurich-owned Australia-based travel insurer Cover-More told insuranceNEWS.com.au it provides more than 70 different policies to distribution partners “offering differing levels of coverage”.

“There is cover available for medical expenses under many of Cover-More’s travel insurance policies if a customer travelling overseas contracts the coronavirus and is hospitalised,” EGM Sales & Distribution for Asia Pacific Mike Stein said.

“However, even if medical cover is available to customers for this event, there may not be cover for travellers’ cancellation or amendment of travel plans and other additional expenses as a result of the coronavirus epidemic.”

ICA has urged travel insurance customers who have suffered disruption due to the virus to contact their travel agent and transport and accommodation providers in the first instance “to seek refunds or make alternative arrangements”.

Insureds are also being urged to refer to their individual policies to understand the level of cover provided.