Travel insurance & COVID: How will Omicron impact my policy?
A rundown of what is and isn't covered by insurance if Omicron impacts your travel plans.
The opening of international travel to and from Australia has been thrown a major curveball by the emergence of Omicron.
Even with Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday urging state premiers to "not get spooked" by the new variant, many have understandably been left anxious regarding their impending travel plans – especially as a number of countries have slammed shut their international borders.
It has also led to the federal government pushing back the country's planned easing of border restrictions for international students and eligible visa holders until 15 December. Let's have a look at the possible impact on travel insurance for COVID.
Does travel insurance cover me for claims linked to COVID-19?
Whether or not you'll be covered depends on the specifics of your policy. Finder research has found that just 6 brands offer some COVID-related cover. That's less than a fifth of 34 insurance policies we looked at overall.
The main policy benefits tend to include:
- COVID-19 medical cover – some countries such as Indonesia and Thailand have mandated this insurance.
- Trip rearrangement expenses if you, a fellow traveller or your host gets COVID and it impacts your trip.
- Costs if you're unexpectedly forced into quarantine during your trip.
Other benefits we've seen offered by some brands range from childcare costs if you get infected, to cover if you get denied boarding on transport due to symptoms.
One important caveat to be aware of is that, if you travel to a destination that has a level 3 or 4 advisory warning from Smartraveller, it's very unlikely that travel insurance will cover you.
You can review the policies with COVID-related cover side-by-side here.
Will travel insurance policies change in the wake of Omicron?
As the pandemic evolves, so does travel insurance. Generally speaking, consumers can expect SARS-CoV-2 and its variants to be included under "COVID-19" coverage if it's included in their policy's Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).
Jo McCauley, CEO of Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI), which offers some COVID benefits, told Finder: "We don't have any plans to update or alter our insurance cover due to the emergence of the new Omicron strain of COVID-19."
McCauley added though that her company was "continuing to monitor the situation closely".
What situations aren't covered by COVID?
The pandemic is considered a "known event" and so, unfortunately, travellers have to take on many of the COVID-19-related risks themselves.
In general, the following COVID-19-related events are excluded from travel insurance policies:
- Border closures.
- A mandated quarantine or self-isolation that you knew about in advance.
- Ignoring advice from a doctor that you are not well enough to travel.
- COVID cover on a multi-night cruise.
- Travelling to a country with a "Do Not Travel" warning from Smartraveller.
- PCR tests.
Emirates is no longer offering multi-risk travel cover
Mariam Gabaji recently booked a 4-week trip to Pakistan to see her family for the first time in 2 years over Christmas. The Sydney-based Finder writer explained: "I looked into my options regarding direct travel insurance policies, but to be honest I was put off when I found out they won't cover border closures."
"I ended up booking my flights via Emirates directly as it was offering some travel insurance with my booking. This includes trip cancellation costs if I get COVID and need to cancel my trip ahead of time.
"It also comes with US$500,000 of medical expenses cover, which gives me peace of mind as there's no reciprocal healthcare agreement between Pakistan and Australia."
It's important to note that Emirates has stopped offering multi-risk travel insurance cover as of today, 1 December. It now instead offers COVID-19 medical travel insurance cover. Read more on this here.
Gabaji added: "I also checked the fine print of my flight booking and – having booked directly with the airline, rather than a third party operator – I'm pretty confident I can reclaim any money in case of cancellations if the worst does happen and my flight is cancelled."
Find the latest travel insurance deals and discounts that can help cut the cost of COVID travel insurance by as much as 25%, while covering you for a range of mishaps before or during your travels.