Coronavirus Coverage in International Travel Insurance

Coronavirus Coverage in International Travel Insurance

Last Updated: April 11, 2023

This article focuses primarily on how 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, you need to be aware of how it could affect your plans.


The 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 pandemic began, the virus has spread causing major outbreaks worldwide. As of April, 2023, the coronavirus has resulted in nearly seven million fatalities globally, and over one million deaths in the United States alone. 


All eligible individuals are strongly encouraged, and in some cases mandated, to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Those who are already fully vaccinated are encouraged and may also be mandated to get appropriate COVID-19 booster shots, though these regulations depend upon your country of residence and your travel destination.
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 December, 2022:
  • Novavax (Nuvaxovid)
  • Covovax (Novavax formulation)
  • Moderna (Spikevax)
  • Pfizer/BioNTech (Comirnaty)
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) (Ad26.COV2.S)
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca (Vaxzevira)
  • Covishield (Oxford/AstraZeneca formulation)
  • Covaxin
  • Sinopharm (Covilo)
  • Sinovac (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 eligible people to receive the approved COVID-19 vaccine or booster. 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. 

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 increased in 2021, mandates regarding mask use were largely determined by local governments, private companies, and school administrators, and often based on vaccination status. As of 2023, most countries around the world have ended their mask mandates, but travelers will need to make sure they are familiar with local ordinances.  

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 has remained a regularly changing situation for nearly three years. Early on in the pandemic, many businesses were closed, and the usage of facemasks was made mandatory in some countries. As of 2023, these restrictions have largely been relaxed in most areas, with COVID-19 now considered an endemic disease rather than a pandemic. However, the situation remains fluid. Requirements and restrictions may change at any time, and vary significantly by country.

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. In June of 2022, the U.S. ended its testing requirement. Many other countries have since followed suit. 

As of April, 2023, most nations around the world have either completely eliminated their travel restrictions related to COVID-19, or rolled them back significantly. However, this varies by country. Travelers are still encouraged to research their destinations thoroughly to ensure they have any necessary vaccinations or tests in order to be allowed entry. 

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, you may be required to quarantine yourself for a prescribed number of days, depending upon local laws. This can add significant expense to your trip’s cost in the form of testing, treatment, and accommodation. Due to this, some countries still require visitors to have travel insurance that can cover quarantine and accommodation expenses. You are encouraged to research your prospective destination ahead of time so you are aware of the current requirements.

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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The U.S. Department of State requires all J visa holders to purchase compliant insurance.

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