The coronavirus is an unknown and daunting prospect for everyone across the globe, but even more so for people who are planning to travel.
As of March 10, there have been 373 confirmed cases of Coronavirus, or COVID-19, in the UK.
While numbers on our shores are currently low, the debilitating disease has gathered momentum elsewhere. The World Health Organization has even upgraded the risk of spread and impact to its top level: “very high”.
Where are the affected areas?
While it’s difficult to predict where the Coronavirus may spread to next, the government is offering specific advice for travellers returning from the worst-hit destinations. These include:
- Mainland China
- Hong Kong
- Northern Italy
- South Korea
The World Health Organization is providing regularly updated situation reports detailing confirmed cases, new cases by destination and helpful advice.
Can I travel against government advice?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) may advise against all travel to a destination, as they have done with the Hubei Province in China, or all but essential travel, as they have done with the rest of mainland China.
In many affected areas, towns have been isolated and British Embassy staff have been withdrawn. While airlines and transport services are willing to take passengers, the health risks and limited assistance available will seriously compromise your visit.
It’s always best to check FCO travel advice before going ahead with a trip.
Does my insurance cover me for affected areas?
It’s highly likely that your travel insurer won’t cover a trip to an area affected by the virus.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says: "If you travel against government advice then you are likely to invalidate your travel insurance. If unsure, then speak to your travel insurer."
Do I get compensation from my travel insurer if I decide to cancel my trip?
You can claim costs for cancelling your trip if the FCO has advised against travelling to that destination, providing you purchased your travel insurance before the guidance changed.
At the time of writing, the FCO is advising against all travel to Hubei Province in China and all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China.
It is also advising against all but essential travel to the cities of Daegu and Cheongdo in South Korea, and 10 small towns in the Lombardy region and one in the Veneto region of Italy.
For the latest information, see the coronavirus travel advice on the FCO website.
The ABI say that a medical recommendation may also help cover non-refundable expenses. However, there is no cover for disinclination to travel.
If the FCO haven’t advised against visiting a destination and you’re worried about travel in general, your insurance provider will not cover any expenses associated with cancelling.
The RAC are in regular contact with the FCO and regularly monitor changing travel advice.
If you’ve booked a trip to an affected area and you’re still keen to get away, it’s best to ask your airline or tour operator if they can change your destination to one that is safer to visit.
Can I extend my cover if I get quarantined during my trip?
In the unfortunate event that you’re put into quarantine and your return to the UK is delayed beyond your control, the RAC will automatically extend your policy.
Can I cancel my travel insurance and/or get a refund?
Customers who cancel their travel insurance within their cooling off period can expect a full refund.
If you’re outside the cooling period and you wish to cancel your insurance the RAC will be happy to review your case and potentially offer a pro-rata refund.
Will I be covered if my flight is cancelled?
If your flight is cancelled due to health risks, it’s best to contact your airline for a refund.
Customers with Travel Disruption Cover may be covered if their flight is cancelled.
What about driving through Europe?
Before setting off on a continental road trip it’s important to map out your route.
Check the countries affected by the FCO’s advice and prepare to take diversions to avoid these areas.
The main advice we can give is to make sure you are prepared for any trips, know your travel policy document terms and follow the advice of the government and health bodies to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and to protect yourself.