Virus safety net for Aussie travellers

Stock image.
Stock image.

AUSSIES intending to travel overseas have been told to hunt down a little-known insurance product that will save them a mountain of cash if the coronavirus outbreak foils their plans.

The virus, which is now spreading rapidly in countries outside China, has left travellers nervous about the financial and health implications of international travel.

In Australia, the outbreak became a “known event” on January 23, the day the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told travellers to reconsider their need to travel to and from Wuhan, the coronavirus epicentre in China.

In the days that followed, the vast majority of travel insurers began to explicitly exclude this known event, ruling out coverage for pandemic, epidemic or infectious disease.

Policies purchased after that date typically don’t cover people for losses related to the outbreak.

But there is a little-known optional extra some insurers offer on travel policies and the Insurance Council of Australia says anyone planning to head offshore should seek it out.

Cancel for any reason coverage must be purchased within 48 hours of travellers paying for their big ticket items, such as flights and accommodation. Picture: Getty

It’s called “cancel for any reason”. Yes, it costs extra. But the insurance council says it’s not an onerous amount and given no one knows how the coronavirus outbreak will pan out, it’s a smart investment.

There are some conditions would-be travellers should know about.

Cancel for any reason coverage must be purchased within 48 hours of travellers paying for their big ticket items, such as flights and accommodation, and it must be bought a minimum of seven days from the date of departure.

“It gives you the option to literally cancel for any reason and it’s not a big outlay. It’s not broadly available, but it is available,” the insurance council’s Lisa Kable said.

Travellers should have some level of coronavirus cover if they bought their policies before the outbreak became a known event.

But Ms Kable said policies ranged from basic to comprehensive and the best thing people could do was read the fine print and contact their insurers.

“If you were already travelling before coronavirus was a known event – let’s say you had China on your itinerary – and you wanted to curtail your trip because the advice became ‘do not travel’, or your tour operator changed the itinerary, more than likely you’d have some type of coverage,” she said.

“If you bought travel insurance before it became a known event but you are going later in the year, you would more than likely be covered, depending on your policy.

“If you’re in Europe, and Italy becomes a ‘do not travel’ zone, you also potentially have recourse for trip changes and things like that.”

More news

Coronavirus a global health crisis: PM

Perth man ‘contracts coronavirus’ on ship

Coronavirus fears divert cruise ship to Fremantle