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Insurance Matters – Traveling in a pandemic

22 Apr 2022

With our borders opening and global travel starting up once again, it’s a good time to think about all the new requirements around getting away. To checking long disused passports aren’t now out of date and brushing up on visa requirements, we can now add new ones around covid vaccines and testing.

Just as all these requirements are changing because of covid, so too is travel insurance. Most people remember it from before we’d even heard of covid. It gave us the peace of mind to cover hefty medical bills, theft, loss of luggage and flight disruptions. This basic, no-frills, cover still exists and forms the basis of today’s policies, including those offered by airlines and some credit card providers.

With Omicron and emerging variants prevalent throughout Aotearoa and across the world, the chances of contracting covid and having that disrupt your plans are not insignificant. As you would expect, travel insurance has adapted to provide covid cover and it’s important to understand how that applies.

A covid extension on your policy should provide cover if you, or someone in your group, gets covid immediately before your trip. It should also cover changes to your travel and accommodation plans, plus related health costs, if you’re affected by covid while away. This will include following local individual isolation rules, but not disruption as a result of a government imposing blanket lockdowns or border closures.

Don’t assume that all travel policies automatically include a covid extension, particularly if you are relying on the standard travel insurance included with your bank’s credit card. It's essential to confirm if covid cover is included when taking out insurance, no matter where you get it from. Also, you can expect that being fully vaccinated will be a condition of qualifying for such cover.

Most travel policies last for a year and it’s important to have them in place before making bookings.  This way, you can be sure the tickets you then purchase, and the accommodation you book, is covered.

So, imagine you now have your covid cover, the trip is booked and the departure date is at hand. Now you need to be certain about what the up to date vaccination and testing requirements are for your airline, your destination country plus any other country you might transit through. Things can, and are, changing fast. Did you know, for instance, that Australia recently introduced a Digital Passenger Declaration requiring you to submit your vaccination status and covid test result within 72 hours of departure?

Just as travel insurance won’t cover you if your turn up for a flight without a valid passport or visa, it typically won’t cover you if you fail to meet any airline or border related requirements. It’s your responsibility to know and meet them.

Sure, there’s more to think about these days when it comes to travel, but most of us are used to having to do things differently because of covid. Most of us are vaccinated and have the official vaccine pass. This familiarity is a great start when it comes to understanding, then meeting, whatever covid related requirements airlines and foreign countries have.

Travel insurance has changed too, and a good level of covid cover is available should you need it. As the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says on its SafeTravel website, “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” With Covid, and especially Omicron, and other emerging variants, that’s never been better advice. Safe travels.