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Coronavirus Coverage in International Travel Insurance

Coronavirus Coverage in International Travel Insurance

Last Updated: Friday, January 14, 2022

This article focuses primarily on how the coronavirus is taken into consideration in international travel insurance plans such as travel medical insurance, visitors insurance, and travel insurance for persons traveling internationally. There are some situations where coverage is available, and others where it is excluded. If you’re traveling or considering travel now, you need to be aware of how it could affect your plans.

Coronavirus

The major outbreak known as coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province of China, in late December 2019. This specific strain is called COVID-19. The coronavirus is zoonotic, meaning that it can be transmitted between animals and people. The SARS-CoV was first transmitted from civet cats to humans, and the MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization made the assessment to characterize COVID-19 as a pandemic.

The coronavirus is a respiratory illness that spreads through person-to-person contact or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The illness may present itself with flu-like symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It can take anywhere from two days to two weeks for the symptoms to appear after a person has been infected with the virus. However, in many people, there are no symptoms.

Reported cases of coronavirus have ranged in severity from mild symptoms to severe illness and death. Since the outbreak began, the virus has spread causing major outbreaks worldwide. As of January, 2022, the coronavirus has resulted in over five million fatalities globally. 

Precautions

All eligible individuals are strongly encouraged, and in some cases mandated, to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. There are currently 25 different vaccines authorized by national regulatory authorities around the world. The following 10 vaccines have been authorized for full or emergency use by the World Health Organization as of January, 2022:
  • Novavax
  • Covovax (Novavax formulation)
  • Moderna
  • Pfizer/BioNTech
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca
  • Covishield (Oxford/AstraZeneca formulation)
  • Covaxin
  • Sinopharm BBIB-CorV
  • CoronaVac
Studies have suggested that these vaccines are up to 95% effective at preventing coronavirus infection in people who had no evidence of being previously infected. Therefore, most all federal, regional, and local governments are urging people age 12 or older to receive the approved COVID-19 vaccine. In some countries, such as the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all eligible individuals age 5 and older get vaccinated. 

In addition, many countries recommend that those who have been fully vaccinated get an additional booster shot anywhere from two to five months after being fully vaccinated, depending on the vaccine received. However, it should be noted that the rules and regulations regarding vaccinations, age ranges, and booster eligibility vary by country.

Additional Guidelines

Per recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, taking the following measures may help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If that is not possible, consider using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, use the crook of your elbow.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. You can consider using a standard household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Get the flu vaccine
Throughout 2020, many lawmakers and organizations implemented mandates requiring the use of facemasks for all individuals. However, as vaccination rates have increased in 2021, mandates regarding mask use are now largely determined by local governments, private companies, and school administrators, and often based on vaccination status. Individuals are encouraged to familiarize themselves with ordinances for wearing masks in all public places they plan to visit or travel to.  

High-Risk Groups

The virus that causes COVID-19 affects people of all ages. However, two groups of people have a higher risk of developing severe symptoms: older people (people over 60 years old), and those with underlying medical conditions (like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer). The World Health Organization offers the following advice for those two groups, as well as to everyone—even if you aren’t in one of the high-risk groups, you might pass the disease to someone who is.
  • To maintain social distance, exchange “one-meter greetings” like a wave, nod, or bow.
  • Ask visitors and those you live with to wash their hands.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces in your home, especially ones that get touched regularly.
  • If someone you live with isn’t feeling well (especially with COVID-19 symptoms), limit your shared spaces.
  • If you become ill with symptoms of COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider by telephone before visiting your healthcare facility.
  • Make a plan in preparation for an outbreak of COVID-19, or a new variant, in your community.
  • When in public, follow the same preventative guidelines as you would at home.
  • Stay up-to-date and educated with information from reliable sources.

Global Response

The coronavirus outbreak remains a rapidly changing situation. Many world leaders and national and international organizations implemented strict precautionary and cautionary measures to contain the virus and protect citizens in early 2020. Some of these are still in effect as of early 2022, but the situation changes on almost a daily basis.  

Travel Restrictions

As a precautionary measure, many countries implemented a full-scale halt to international travel in 2020 and into 2021, effectively closing their borders to all international visitors. Thankfully, increasing vaccination rates and downward trends in infections and deaths has led to these restrictions slowly easing. For instance, starting November 8, 2021, the U.S. began allowing fully vaccinated international travelers who can provide a negative RT-PCR test from no more than three days prior to their arrival to visit the U.S. once again. 

However, the situation regarding travel restrictions is still complex on a worldwide scale. Certain countries that are open for travel are still prohibiting tourists from specific nations. For example, as of October, 2021, tourists arriving from the United States are still prohibited from entering Bulgaria, regardless of their country of citizenship; visitors from many other nations are freely allowed to enter. Variations of these types of restrictions still exist all around the world, and travelers are encouraged to do their research before planning on visiting a specific destination, as rules are changing frequently.

As a general rule of thumb, most every country that is allowing international visitors requires proof of a negative RT-PCR or rapid antigen test at minimum, and others require proof of full vaccination in addition to that. 

Travel Medical Insurance

Many travelers have questioned whether they have coverage related to the coronavirus in their international travel medical insurance plans. Regarding travel medical insurance, coverage depends on factors like the specific insurance plan’s exclusions and the destination. Most international insurance plans have an exclusion for coverage related to epidemics or pandemics if a travel warning for the destination (host) country has been issued. However, there are many travel medical insurance or travel insurance plans that can cover COVID-19 just like any other new illness that occurs after the effective date of the policy. 

Coronavirus Coverage in Travel Medical Insurance

Travel Insurance

Like travel medical insurance and visitors medical insurance, travel insurance is available for many different travel arrangements. Specific coverages may or may not be available depending on your unique situation. Many people purchase travel insurance with trip cancellation coverage to prevent the loss of their prepaid, nonrefundable trip costs in case they need to cancel their trip due to a covered reason. 

However, you must be mindful of the covered reasons for cancellation. For instance, if the country you plan to visit requires COVID-19 vaccination for entry at the time you purchased your policy, and you have chosen not to get vaccinated, you would not be able to claim this as a reason for cancelling your trip, as it was a known requirement. 

In some cases, the best option is to purchase Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) Travel Insurance in case you have an upcoming trip you may need to cancel. Please note that there are specific requirements such as: You must purchase such travel insurance within a certain duration after the initial trip deposit, you must insure your full trip cost, and you must generally cancel your trip at least 48 hours in advance. You would get 75% of your trip cost back. 

However, if you already know that you want to or need to cancel your trip, and you want to buy CFAR coverage now, it’s not going to work because CFAR travel insurance must be purchased within 10-21 days after your initial trip deposit (specific duration is plan-dependent). 

Travel Insurance with Quarantine Coverage

If you were to test positive for COVID-19 while in your destination country, it is likely that you will be required to quarantine yourself for a prescribed number of days. This can add significant expense to your trip’s cost in the form of testing, treatment, and accommodation. Due to this, many countries, such as Costa Rica, Venezuela, Thailand, Argentina, and even the state of New York now require that visitors have travel insurance that can cover quarantine and accommodation expenses. 

Whether it is mandated or not, COVID-19 Travel Insurance with Quarantine Coverage is highly recommended. Depending upon the plan you choose, you can receive coverage for up to $7,000 in accommodation expenses, trip interruption coverage up to 150% of the trip’s cost, and primary medical coverage up to $1,000,000 that covers COVID-19 just like any other new medical condition that occurs after the effective date of the policy.  

Planning for trips involves more than just booking airfare, hotel accommodations, and making sure you’ve packed the right clothing. Life is unpredictable in so many ways; you don’t know what will happen or when disaster can strike. For any trips away from home, make sure that you select the best travel insurance for your journey. You should also reference our Coronavirus and Travel Insurance FAQ for more information.  If you have any questions, please contact our office for assistance – we are waiting to help you any way we can.

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