Tommy Lloyd
Author: Tommy Lloyd, Managing Director

Tommy has over 15 years experience within the insurance industry, and his primary focus is helping travellers find the right cover for their medical conditions.

Originally posted: 5th Mar 2020

We know this is an uncertain time for many people who are traveling, whether you already have cover in place, or are looking to find cover for an upcoming trip. We’re here to provide you with the most up to date information and help answer some of the most common queries.

What's the latest news?

  • On 17th March the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against all international travel for 30 days. However, on, 4th April the FCO updated its guidance to advise against all international travel for an indefinite period.
  • The FCO has previously advised against all but essential travel to:
    • All international travel (from 17th March until 16th April) 
    • Kosovo, North Korea, Panama, Mongolia, Philippines, Gabon, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Seychelles, India, Ukraine, and Austria (from 17th March)
    • Montenegro, Malta,  Lithuania, Slovenia, The Bahamas, Belize, South Africa, Myanmar, Honduras, Ecuador, Vietnam, St Lucia, Malaysia, Georgia, Trinidad and Tobago, Egypt, North Macedonia, Uruguay, Lebanon, Equatorial Guinea, Uzbekistan, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Hungary, and Kenya (from 16th March)
    • Spain (including the Canary Islands), USA, Sri Lanka, Paraguay, Guatemala, Ghana, El Salvador, Latvia, Ecuador, Cyprus, Andorra, Malawi, Morocco, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, East Timor, Estonia, Romania, and Norway  (from 15th March)
    • Colombia, Jamaica, Estonia, Argentina, Peru, Poland, Sierra Leone, Suriname, Albania, Archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores, Denmark, Czech Republic and Slovakia (from 14th March)
    • San Marino, some areas of Spain; Madrid and La Rioja, and the municipalities of La Bastida and Vitoria (both in the Basque Country) and Miranda de Ebro (in Castilla y León) (from 13th March)
    • Italy (from 9th March) 
    • Mainland China (from 28th January)
    • all travel to the Hubei Province and to the cities of Daegu, Cheongdo, and Gyeongsan in South Korea (from 23rd January)
  • The UK has entered into a 'lockdown' period, asking everyone to only leave their home for limited reasons such as shopping for basic necessities, exercising once per day any medical needs or travelling for work purposes. 
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced on 11th March 2020 that the coronavirus has now been classified as a pandemic. Some travel insurance providers will specifically exclude cover relating to a pandemic, so it is important to check your policy, and speak with your travel insurance provider if you are unsure.
  • The USA has temporarily suspended all flights to and from most of the EU, excluding the United Kingdom from 13th March 2020, for 30 days. This travel ban will be now extended to the United Kingdom from 16th March 2020.
  • As the virus continues to spread, some airlines have temporarily suspended flights to affected areas including British Airways suspending flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai, and Ryanair suspending flights to Italy.

The latest guidance from the FCO on traveling to affected areas can be found here.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have advised against travel to all international destinations, can I get still cover?

On 17th March 2020, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised against all but essential international travel for 30 days. Then, on 4th April 2020, the FCO updated its guidance to advise against all international travel for an indefinite period.

It is not yet known when the FCO will change its guidance, however, it's likely to be when countries are able to successfully reduce the impact of COVID-19 and it is safe to travel again. 

It is very unlikely that any travel insurance provider will be unable to cover you if, at the time of your trip, the FCO is advising against all or all but essential travel to your destination.

You can find details of FCO advice for all countries here

You can also find details of the Financial Conduct Authority's guidance for the impact of COVID-19 on insurance here.

What happens if I take out cover, and then the FCO change their advice to advise against all, or all but essential travel to my destination?

If you already have cover in place, and the FCO change their advice to advise against all travel, or all but essential travel to your destination – then it’s best to contact your travel insurance provider straight away for guidance.

Whilst some travel insurance providers may be able to provide cover if you took out your policy before the FCO changed their advice, some may not cover you regardless of when you took your policy out.

As the coronavirus has now been classified as a pandemic, you may find that there are additional cover restrictions in place.

If you are unsure, please contact your travel insurance provider who will be able to provide guidance.

I’m worried about travelling to a destination affected by the coronavirus, but the FCO hasn't advised against travel there, does my travel insurance cover against cancellation?

If you are worried about travelling to a destination due to the virus, but the FCO is not advising against travelling to the destination you are going to, it’s unlikely that you’ll be covered for cancellation. 

Even if the FCO does advise against travelling to your destination, there may still be cover restrictions in place now that the coronavirus has been classified as a pandemic.

It’s best to have a chat with your travel insurance provider if you are unsure.

I'm due to visit the USA shortly, what do I do?

On 14th March 2020, the USA announced that they will be extending their 30 day travel ban to include the United Kingdom with effect from midnight (EST) on Monday 16th March 2020.

If you are due to travel during this period, please contact your airline, or tour operator who should, in the first instance reschedule your flight or offer you a refund.

On 15th March 2020 the FCO also advised against all but essential travel to the USA.

Now that the coronavirus (COVID-19) has been classified as a pandemic, what impact is there on travel insurance cover?

On 11th March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) changed the classification of coronavirus from an epidemic to a pandemic. The WHO define an epidemic as a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease beyond what would be normally expected, whilst a pandemic is a disease that has spread in multiple countries around the world, usually affecting a large number of people.

Many travel insurance policies will specifically exclude any cover related to a pandemic, which in this case, means cover for coronavirus. This may impact any claims you make relating to coronavirus, including cancellation, travel delay or medical expenses cover.

However, cover will vary from provider to provider, so it’s really important that you check your policy wording thoroughly, and, if you are unsure,  speak with your travel insurance provider who can give you guidance on what they can, and cannot cover you for.

It’s also important to remember, that whilst coronavirus related cover may be restricted, other cover mayl still apply for your policy, such as if you fall ill and are unable to travel, or need medical assistance for other conditions.

Dr Sarah Jarvis, MBE

Ten top tips for Coronavirus

Sarah is the Clinical Director of the Patient Platform Limited, an active medical writer, broadcaster, and is the resident doctor for BBC Radio 2.

With coronavirus in over 70 countries, including all 4 countries of the UK, it makes sense to take precautions to avoid catching coronavirus wherever you are.

  1. Wash your hands – it’s tip number one for a reason! Coronavirus is likely to be transmitted mostly by droplets. That means if someone sneezes or coughs straight into your face, you can breathe in the germs. But it’s likely that more people are catching it by picking up viruses on their hands and touching their mouth or nose. Really regular handwashing may help reduce the spread of the virus by over 50% - but you need to wash every bit of your hands with soap and water, taking about 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice).

  2. Don’t forget the door. You may have washed your hands when you visit the loo, but sadly not everyone else has. When you finish washing your hands, use your elbow or a paper towel to turn the tap off and keep the paper towel to open the door, then dispose of it in a bin.

  3. Use the right hand sanitiser. In the absence of a sink, the right hand sanitiser is a good second choice. Antibacterial gels and liquids are excellent at killing bacteria, but not always as good at killing viruses. Pick a variety that contains a high proportion of alcohol – ideally at least 60%.

  4. Don’t worry about masks. Unless you have a bespoke fitted mask, such as the type used by hospital staff in isolation wards, most masks are of very limited value. They may slightly reduce the risk of you passing the virus on, but they have little impact on your risk of catching coronavirus.

  5. Think twice about the buffet. Hotel and restaurant buffets look appetising, but sadly all too often other customers will have ignored the serving spoons and dug their fingers in. Of course, it’s always possible that even if you order food from the menu, the waiter could be infected. But statistically, this is much less likely than a room full of other guests.

  6. Shake off shaking hands. The government isn’t officially advocating alternatives to handshaking as yet. But there’s no question that shaking hands is the perfect way to pass on the virus. You may not be tempted by the ‘elbow bump’ or the ‘Wuhan shake’ (touching opposite feet against each other) but I’ve completely stopped shaking hands in favour of a friendly mini-wave.

  7. Keep inhalers to hand. If you have long term lung conditions such as asthma or COPD, you’re likely to be taking prescribed inhalers – usually a blue ‘reliever’ inhaler and one or more ‘preventer’ inhalers, to stop you getting wheeze or shortness of breath. It’s always important to make sure you have enough of your medication to last for the whole holiday, with some to spare in case of delays or lost medication. But it’s particularly important if you catch coronavirus, which can worsen breathing problems.

  8. Check before you fly. The list of high (and highest) risk countries is changing almost daily. So before you travel, check on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website to make sure your country isn’t on the list where no travel (or only essential travel) is recommended.

  9. Get the right insurance. If you have a medical condition you don’t declare, it could invalidate your insurance. That means that if you’re taken ill with coronavirus while you’re away, you could be left with an eye-watering bill and serious problems getting home.

  10. Know the symptoms. For most people, the symptoms of coronavirus are no worse than a nasty cold. However, runny nose and sneezing don’t seem to be prominent features. Typically, the infection starts with a fever, followed by a cough and sometimes shortness of breath a few days later. So while a blocked or runny nose isn’t a guarantee that you don’t have coronavirus, it does make it less likely.

My flights have been cancelled by my airline, am I covered?

If you find that your flights have been cancelled by your airline, then they should be able to offer you alternative arrangements to a different destination, move your dates or even offer a refund. If your flights have been cancelled when you’re on your way back to the UK, the airline has a duty of care to make sure they get you home safely.

But if they can’t do this, get in touch your travel insurance provider – who can provide you with guidance. If the flights have been cancelled due to the coronavirus, you may find that there are cover restrictions in place as the virus has now been classed as a pandemic, which many travel insurance providers will be unable to cover.

My airline has fallen into administration, am I covered?

If you have either Scheduled Airline Failure, or End Supplier Failure on your policy, and your airline falls into administration, you should be covered for your flight costs. It’s best to contact your travel insurance provider to see how they can help.

If you booked your cover through a travel agent, or paid using a credit card, you may also be able to get help from either your travel agent, or your credit card provider.

What about my booked accommodation?

It’s not just airlines that are cancelling flights, it’s hotels and other accommodation too – even in areas that the FCO hasn’t advised against travelling to. If that does happen then the hotel should give you a refund.

If you have End Supplier Failure, which should help you should your accommodation provider collapse, there may be cover on your policy.  However, you may find that there are cover restrictions in place as the virus has now been classed as a pandemic, which many travel insurance providers will be unable to cover.

Can I extend my cover if I’m abroad and am stuck due to the coronavirus?

If you are stuck in another country and cannot come home on your arranged return date due to the coronavirus then, depending on your policy, your cover may be extended.

This could be done if you’re hospitalised and need medical treatment, if your transport is delayed or cancelled and finally, if you can’t return home for a reason outside of your control.

You may find that there are cover restrictions in place as the virus has now been classed as a pandemic, which many travel insurance providers will be unable to cover. It’s best to contact your travel insurance provider as soon as possible to find out if they can extend your cover.

Can I cut my trip short and return home?

Usually, you would not be covered for cutting short your trip for “fear of an epidemic, pandemic, infection, or allergic reaction” so we recommend that if you booked your trip with a tour operator to speak to them if you believe your destination is affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

If you have booked your trip independently it’s best to check that your flights are still running, as there have been cancellations.

Some travel insurance providers will cover you if you are forced to cut your trip short when adhering to FCO advice – however, it’s best to contact your travel insurance provider for guidance on what is and is not covered.

What if I'm returning home to the UK?

If you have travelled to the UK from the destinations listed below and you are experiencing shortness of breath, cough or fever symptoms then the UK Chief Medical Officers strongly advises that you stay indoors and call the NHS 111 line to inform them of your symptoms and latest travel destinations.

It is also recommended that you avoid contact with other people until seeking further medical advice.

  • Italy (outside specific areas in northern Italy) before 9 March
  • mainland China outside of Hubei province
  • South Korea outside of Daegu, Cheongdo and Gyeongsan
  • Cambodia
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Laos
  • Macau
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • Singapore
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

If you don’t have any symptoms but have travelled to the below areas, then it is also recommended that you stay inside and call the NHS 111 line too:

  • anywhere in Italy on or after 9 March
  • specific areas in northern Italy in the last 14 days
  • Iran in the last 14 days
  • Hubei province in China in the last 14 days
  • Daegu, Cheongdo or Gyeongsan in South Korea in the last 14 days

I’m already travelling through affected areas – how do I get help?

If you are a British traveller stuck in an affected area, you can contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate for help. You can find their details here.

Remember that most travel insurance providers will have a 24-hour medical helpline, so if your enquiry is urgent and you feel that you have been taken ill by the coronavirus we strongly recommend you call them and tell them about your situation as soon as you can.

If you think you have symptoms of the Coronavirus, then we advise you call the 111 NHS line for further help.

This guide will be updated in the future as and when new events unfold. The information in the guide is correct as of the 09/04/2020 and may be subject to change as news progresses.

You have a 14 day right to cancel period with any travel insurance policy. You will need to contact your insurance provider to cancel within this period. You are entitled to cancel providing you have not travelled or made a claim.
Cancellation amounts will be per person. So, if you were going on a trip for 2 people which cost £1,000 in total you would ideally need cancellation cover for at least £500.
You will need to add each country that you are visiting. If you are on a flight stopover this will include any countries where you leave the airport. If you are on a cruise it includes any countries where your ship will be docking at.
A pre-existing condition is a diagnosed medical condition that existed before taking out a policy. We'll ask a series of questions about the medical history for you and any travellers on your quote. If you answer yes to any of these, you will need to tell us about the traveller's conditions. This could be a condition that a traveller has now, or has had in the past. If you are not sure what conditions you need to declare, we have online support available to help you 24/7!
If you're taken ill or have an accident abroad your travel insurance policy will repatriate you once you are well enough to travel. It is included within your medical cover. The insurance provider's Emergency Assistance team will help organise this along with the medical team who are treating you. If you are travelling in the UK, check repatriation with your insurance provider to see what is included.
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