Why you NEED to buy travel insurance now if you have a holiday booked as coronavirus spreads

HOLIDAYMAKERS who’ve already booked their next trip away will need to buy insurance to protect themselves from things going wrong due to coronavirus.

The number of British cases leapt to 116 yesterday, while a woman became the first patient to die in the UK after testing positive.

Read our coronavirus live blog for all the latest news and updates

You should take out travel insurance for any upcoming trip that you’ve booked
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The number of travel insurance policies being taken out has ballooned by a shocking 277 per cent in the wake of the outbreak, according to GoCompare.com.

The rise was tracked over the past seven days as more cases of the virus were confirmed worldwide.

Countries with confirmed cases of the potentially deadly illness include Italy, Japan, the United States, Germany, France, Thailand, Spain and Canada.

Here’s what to look out for if you’re buying travel insurance for an upcoming trip amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Will I be covered if I take out a policy now?

“If you’ve booked a holiday, it’s important to book your travel insurance asap before any travel bans are put in place that may prevent you from travelling,” said Deborah Vickers from moneyguru.com.

This is because if the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) issues a travel ban to a country not already on the list and you don’t have insurance, then you won’t be able to get your money back.

Areas the FCO has advised not to travel to

HERE are the regions the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against travelling to due to coronavirus:

China

  • All of mainland China

Italy

  • Bertonico
  • Casalpusterlengo
  • Castelgerundo
  • Castiglione d’Adda
  • Codogno
  • Fombio
  • Maleo
  • San Fiorano
  • Somaglia
  • Terranova dei Passerini
  • Vo’ Euganeo

South Korea

  • Cheongdo
  • Daegu

Once an FCO travel ban is in place, you won’t be able to take out a new policy for holidays until it is lifted.

For example, you won’t be able to take out a policy that covers you for a trip to mainland China until the FCO says that its safe to travel there.

Travel insurance will also add a layer of protection for those who booked their trip separately, rather than through a travel agent, as they won’t be ATOL protected.

There’s no one size fits all policy for travel insurance, so you’ll need to check the small print to find out exactly what you’re covered for.

“If you’ve already secured the insurance, you should be covered regardless of if the holiday can go ahead or not,” added Deborah.

“If in doubt, speak to your insurer and travel provider to ensure you’re ATOL protected.”

How to check if an insurance policy will cover you before you buy it

Some insurers may be inserting “no coronavirus claims” clauses into new contracts, warns Martyn James from complaints tool Resolver, which is something you’ll need to look out for before you buy.

You should also look out for clauses that specify that you won’t be covered for cancellations caused by a pandemic, in case COVID-19 is escalated to this level by authorities before your trip.

There are three keys areas you need to look when buying travel insurance, according to consumer group Which?:

  • Travel disruption cover – This will protect you for costs incurred as a result of delays, missed flights or being put in quarantine while abroad. Sometimes, you’ll need to opt for it to be added on.
  • Emergency medical cover – This is how much the insurer will pay out if you need medical treatment.  The consumer group recommends you take out £2million for Europe and £5million worldwide.
  • Excess – This is how much you’ll have to pay before your insurer pays out. Make sure it’s affordable for your otherwise you won’t get help if you can’t afford the initial payments.

“If you can’t get cover, speak to the hotel, airline or travel agent before you book,” said Martyn, “and ask them to confirm in writing if you can move your booking to a later date depending on the spread of the virus.”

How the coronavirus has spread across the UK

Can I get a refund if I cancel my holiday?

Your insurance policy will only pay out if your holiday has been cancelled as a result of FCO advice.

If you choose to rearrange a trip then you’re not likely to get a refund from your travel insurance, package holiday firm or airline.

This is because there’s technically no real reason that you shouldn’t travel other than that you don’t want to.

Your insurance firm may refund you or rearrange your trip for free if you have concerns travelling to an area due to pre-exisiting health concerns.

Many, such as LV= and AXA, will require you to provide a note from your GP – you can read our guide to what the insurers say about this here.

What if I don’t have travel insurance?

If your trip is cancelled by the package provider or airline due to an FCO warning then you still might be able to get a refund or at least be able to rearrange your trip.

ATOL protected tour operators technically don’t have to help as the scheme doesn’t include cancellations due to major medical outbreaks like the coronavirus.

But some travel companies are still offering worried holidaymakers help where possible.

For example, Greek airline Aegean Airlines is offering customers with flights to any destination before March 20 the chance to rebook for free.

If you’ve booked flights and accommodation separately, ask the airlines and hotels if they can help.

We’ve made a round-up of what your travel insurer, package holiday provider and airline will cover if your holiday is affected by coronavirus.

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