Travel insurance: which policies cover you for Covid-19?

Helen Coffey
·9 min read
Policies are available to help you escape to paradise
Policies are available to help you escape to paradise

Travel insurance has undergone something of an evolution since the coronavirus pandemic started.

At first, as holidays and flights started to get cancelled in response to travel restrictions, holidaymakers could turn to their policies to recoup the costs. Then, as the number of claims soared, insurers began introducing clauses saying they would not be paying for any Covid-related cancellations. Finally, things have almost come full circle: a range of providers have launched policies that cover coronavirus in some shape or form.

It’s a welcome change for anxious holidaymakers, but buyer beware: not all travel insurance is created equal. Here’s everything you need to know.

Medical expenses versus cancellation and curtailment

Many of the insurers that say they cover coronavirus mean, in reality, that they specifically cover medical costs abroad, rather than the cancellation or curtailment of a trip due to the pandemic. That means, in the event that you catch Covid-19 while on holiday, they’ll provide any medical expenses, and possibly extras including repatriation and extra accommodation costs if you have to quarantine.

Other insurers might cover you in the event you have to cancel a trip as a result of catching the virus before you go, or because you’ve been told to self-isolate by the NHS test and trace team. And some companies will even cover you if the Foreign Office (FCDO) advice changes while you’re away, for example if they now advise against all but essential travel to your holiday destination.

Here are some of the best policies covering coronavirus:

Nationwide is the only provider to currently cover policy holders in the event that the FCDO changes its advice before you go – for example, if you needed to cancel your trip to Greece because it had suddenly been removed from the “low-risk” list. It’s also the only company to protect you if the country you’re travelling to introduces border restrictions due to the pandemic. However, this is changing from 1 January 2021; trips booked on or after that date are only covered for cancellation if you, a relative, colleague or travelling companion catches Covid-19.

Virgin Money has relaunched travel insurance for new customers with additional cover for coronavirus. New customers can now buy policies that include cover for medical expenses, cancellation and curtailment as a result of being diagnosed with coronavirus, and existing customers are now automatically covered. Policy holders benefit from medical expenses if they require treatment for coronavirus while abroad, plus additional accommodation costs (up to £2,000) will also be included if treatment means customers need to extend their trip. Customers are also covered in the event that they have to cancel a trip because they or a member of their family or travelling party are medically diagnosed with coronavirus or personally instructed to isolate by an NHS service or medical professional.

Travel Bag Insurance also offers cover, including for holiday cancellation if you or your travelling companion has received a positive diagnosis of coronavirus from an NHS test within 14 days of the start of the trip. You’re covered if you’re denied boarding by your transport operator as a result of a high temperature or a positive test; for medical costs if you fall ill with coronavirus while abroad; for accommodation costs resulting from an extended stay if you or a travelling companion is infected with Covid-19; and if the FCDO advice changes while you’re away. However, it doesn’t cover cancellation costs if the FCDO advice changes before you leave and you no longer wish to travel.

Allianz Assistance was one of the first companies to offer comprehensive coronavirus cover. Policies now cover trip cancellations because you or your travel companion either have symptoms or are diagnosed with Covid-19. There is also cover if you or your travel companion are required to quarantine as a result of your individual circumstances, such as being requested to do so by the NHS 111 service (if you are unable to travel due to a general quarantine being placed across a region or nation, then this cover does not apply). Medical costs while abroad are covered too (as long as you did not travel against FCDO advice), and you’re also covered for repatriation or an extended stay if you’re too unwell to travel. You are covered for cancellation or cutting short your trip if one of your, or your travel companion’s, close relatives (such as a parent, child, sibling or grandparent), falls seriously ill due to Covid-19.

Staysure has extended coronavirus cover, free of charge, to new policy holders. It includes trip cancellation if you, your travelling companion(s), people you live with or people you’re staying with on holiday are diagnosed with Covid-19 within 14 days of travelling; emergency medical expenses abroad; repatriation; cancellation and repatriation cover if you’re denied boarding because of testing positive for Covid-19; pre-booked, unused excursions up to your cover limits; additional accommodation and transport if deemed necessary by a medical officer; a daily benefit if you are ordered to self-isolate in your holiday accommodation because you have Covid-19; and cancelling or cutting your trip short after a death in the family from Covid-19.

Trailfinders claims to offer “the most extensive Covid-19 policy available”. It covers cancellation prior to departure if you or a close relative tests positive for Covid, if you’re told to self-isolate by the official NHS test and trace app, or if a family member you’re going on holiday specifically to visit contracts the virus. Medical expenses overseas for coronavirus are covered, as is an accommodation extension if necessary because you’ve been told to quarantine while on holiday. If you have to cancel pre-booked excursions due to being told to self-isolate, these are also covered. However, you’re not covered in the event that your local area or indeed the whole of the UK goes into lockdown before the trip.

AllClear has added coronavirus cover to its Clear Gold, Gold Plus and Platinum policies free of charge. It covers up to £15m in emergency medical expenses, including repatriation, plus cancellation and curtailment up to £25,000. The latter includes: if you contract Covid-19 before you travel; if your travelling companion(s), people you live with, or people you’re staying with on holiday are diagnosed with Covid-19 within 14 days of travel; if you’re denied boarding with a positive Covid test; if a close relative becomes ill with coronavirus and you need to return home early; if you’ve been told to self-isolate by the NHS at the time of your departure; and if a family/household member is diagnosed with Covid-19, meaning you have to self-isolate.

Cover for countries on the high-risk list

Nearly all travel insurance policies are automatically invalidated if you go to a destination the FCDO is advising against travelling to. At the moment, this warning has been applied to most countries, barring those on a dwindling “low-risk” list. Holidaymakers’ favourites including Spain, France and Italy are all deemed too dangerous by the government.

But all is not lost – there are some tailor-made policies out there that will cover you, even if you decide to go against FCDO advice.

Battleface has long been selling policies to war torn countries on the Foreign Office’s no-go list, and has pivoted neatly to cover less extreme climates since the pandemic started. Policies are still valid if you visit a country the FCDO is advising against all non-essential travel to; they include cover for medical expenses incurred while on a trip caused by or resulting from Covid-19. However, there’s no cover relating to cancellation, curtailment or lock-down/quarantine expense coverage and policies are only available to those aged 59 or under.

Insurefor.com recently launched new insurance products, including single-trip policies that cover you when travelling against FCDO advice to European countries. As well as medical expenses while abroad as a result of coronavirus, it also covers policy holders for cancellation in the event that they, their travelling companion or people they are due to stay with on holiday are diagnosed with Covid-19.

Tour operators and travel agencies

Some tour operators are getting in on the action too.

Of course, if they cancel the trip, the customer is entitled to a full refund. But if the customer needs to cancel, or if they fall ill while on holiday, some brands are offering complimentary cover or the option to include coronavirus insurance as an add-on.

Thomas Cook offers holiday insurance that includes Covid-19 protection via its partner, Holiday Extras. It provides cover if you, or anyone insured on your policy, contracts Covid-19 prior to travelling, plus up to £10,000,000 cover if you require emergency treatment abroad and offers repatriation if required.

All Club Med guests are entitled to free Covid-19 cover until 30 April 2021. If a holidaymaker contracts the virus while travelling, medical expenses will be covered as part of the holiday package, including Covid-19 testing, transportation costs to testing facilities, GP appointments and medical expenses in case of hospitalisation. If a lockdown or quarantine is required, housing will be provided for guests and, if they cannot fly home, new flights will be provided once it's safe for them to travel.

Covid Cover is automatically included for all customers travelling on any TUI holiday and applies to all new and existing bookings. Customers can amend their holiday for free if they contract Covid-19 or are officially required to isolate prior to travel, or if their local area goes into a regional lockdown over their departure dates. It also covers medical assistance if a customer contracts Covid-19 while on holiday, plus costs associated with an extended stay and a new return flight home if customers are asked to self-isolate.

EDreams ODIGEO, which owns online travel agencies eDreams, GO Voyages, Opodo and Travellink, has added Covid-19 coverage to its insurance offering. It will cover customers when cancelling their bookings because they have been infected by Covid-19, or because they have been officially required to quarantine prior to departure. In addition, overseas medical and assistance expenses are covered, alongside expenses incurred at a destination due to customers needing to quarantine as a result of infection.

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