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Covid cover makes traditional travel insurance even more essential

23 Feb 2022

With the borders starting to open on 28 February, it’s essential that travellers are insured for both Covid and traditional travel risks. 

“With the much higher transmissibility of Omicron, we expect the proportion of travelling Kiwis claiming for cancelled trips to be much higher,” says Tim Grafton, Chief Executive of the Insurance Council of New Zealand Te Kāhui Inihua o Aotearoa (ICNZ).

The importance of travel insurance has been highlighted by the recent volcanic eruption grounding Kiwis returning from the Cook Islands and the cancellations of hundreds of flights as Cyclone Dovi swept across Aotearoa New Zealand last week resulting in accommodation and re-booking claims.

“For those delayed travelling to and from the Cook Islands, there was also a raft of claims to cover the cost of cancellations or delays,” said Tim.

In addition to covering risks such as delays, cancellations, medical events and lost possessions, travel insurance with a Covid extension will typically cover being unable to travel in the event of the policyholder, or their immediate travelling companions, contracting covid. However, government-imposed border closures, either affecting the ability to leave or return to Aotearoa New Zealand, or another country, are typically not covered. Therefore, it’s essential to read and check the details with individual insurers in order to be clear about what is and isn’t covered before travelling, especially in relation to Covid including if a particular level of prior vaccination is a condition of cover.

Travellers also need to take care to understand the vaccination and testing requirements for any airline they will fly with as well as for any country they seek to transit through or enter. Specifically, travellers need to check the validity of the New Zealand Government’s My Vaccine Pass in this regard and any requirements around having a full course of vaccination, be that two or more shots. They should also know where to get an appropriate test before returning to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Travel insurers also work closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (MFAT) regarding its Safe Travel website and travel advisories noting that cover is typically not available in countries under a do not travel notice.

As MFAT says on its website, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. With Covid, and especially Omicron, that’s never been better advice,” said Tim.

ENDS – KA MUTU

Contact/Tukua ki:  media@icnz.org.nz

Notes to editors

At present policies generally won’t cover:

  • Cancellations to travel caused by government-imposed lockdowns;
  • Costs if the government imposes blanket quarantine;
  • Travel delay caused by COVID-19;
  • Border closures due to COVID-19; and,
  • Travel to any other countries where there is still a ‘do not travel’ alert in place.

Cover that might be offered by some insurers with specific COVID-19 extensions include:

  • Cancellation costs if you get sick with COVID-19 before you go away;
  • Costs to return home if a relative gets sick with COVID-19;
  • Costs if you get sick with COVID-19 and must quarantine;
  • Reasonable accommodation costs if the person you were supposed to stay with gets COVID-19;
  • Cancellation costs if leave is revoked – if you are an essential health worker and your leave is revoked due to COVID-19 you may be able to claim the non-refundable costs;
  • Cancellation costs for denied boarding due to a positive COVID-19 test at the airport - you and your travelling companion may be able to claim the non-refundable, prepaid cancellation costs provided that a public health authority directed you and you did not have knowledge or awareness of your positive test result at the time of your policy purchase; and,
  • Cancellation due to being a close contact with someone with COVID-19 – Cancellation or amendment costs for a prepaid trip subject to the cancellation benefit limit on the policy if they have been directed to quarantine by a public health authority because they deemed to have had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 and can’t go on their trip.