If you have booked a trip for this spring or summer and now are not sure whether to go or not, or how to interpret your travel insurance, this post will hopefully be of help to you!
Some of the information about Coronavirus here in America is very misleading. I never thought there would be a day when I would advise against listening to anything an American president says about an epidemic, but here we are.
I suggest sourcing your information from more than one place, ideally looking to international news as well as domestic. You will see the entire world says one thing and the US president says something quite different.
Coronavirus COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus that attacks the upper respiratory system. Approximately 80% of the people who contract it will be somewhere between asymptomatic and having cold/flu symptoms. 20% will get very sick, 5% critically ill and for around 2% it will be fatal.
These figures may be skewed due to not enough people being tested. Here in the U.S we have no idea how many people are already infected.
It disproportionately impacts those with underlying conditions, those with compromised immune systems, and the elderly. You can read more about it on the CDC Website but be advised they aren’t allowed to tell us everything they normally would have up there. They had to take down posted figures on the number of people tested in the USA.
The USA is ridiculously behind the rest of the developed countries in testing. South Korea has tested more than 110,000 people. Italy has tested more than 25,000 people. The U,K more than 13,500. The list goes on and on, but the USA as of today is still limping along at the 500 mark.
There are multiple factors to look at with your travel insurance policy. You can normally find it all in the fine print.
Some policies have no cover for events such as epidemics, pandemics.
Travel Insurance policies will normally have an exit clause for Foreseen events. For example if you insure your trip today and then the weather service announces a hurricane advisory next week, you will be covered because you bought your policy before the advisory, so it was Unforeseen.
If you purchased insurance after the weather service announced there could be a hurricane next week, even if you hadn’t heard about it yet, that would be a Foreseen event and you would not be covered.
Coronavirus/COVID-19 was declared an epidemic on January 21st 2020. If you bought your policy before this date you should be covered. If you purchased it after this date you will not be covered for Coronavirus related problems.
Cancel For Any Reason
If you bought an additional CFAR or Cancel For Any Reason with your policy before January 21st 2020 you should be able to get a 100% refund. If you purchased CFAR after January 21st 2020 you may not be covered, or the extent of your coverage is in the hands of the insurance company.
Non Essential Travel Advisory and Travel Ban
The State Department or Foreign Service for your country allocates a variety of threat levels for international travel. Two that you need to watch out for are an all out Travel Ban and a Non Essential Travel advisory. At the time of writing this post the U.S State Department has issued Non Essential Travel advisories for several countries. If you travel to one of these countries during the advisory your travel insurance policy doesn’t have to cover you for anything.
This is what Consumer Reports says about Travel and Coronavirus. Also here is an example of how travel insurance companies are dealing with it. My travel insurance is through Travelex, so I am using them as an example: Travelex Insurance and Coronavirus
Should You Cancel Your Trip?
This depends entirely upon where you are traveling and when.
I am going ahead with travel to Italy and Europe for the summer. There is every likelihood the virus will calm down over the summer months if it follows the behavior of its fellow viruses SARS and MERS. Obviously I will be watching and evaluating what is happening over the next weeks. My expectation is that we will see the worst of it in March and that from April forward the virus will start disappearing as the warmer weather comes.
I had planned to travel to Europe in December but for now temporarily have those plans on hold. I’m expecting to see the virus get worse again over the cold/flu season.
Obviously I’m not a doctor/microbiologist/epidemiologist and have no scientific background to support that theory. If I am wrong with my predictions then in December you will find me shopping in the Christmas markets in Europe.
Trips To Re-Evaluate
There are two types of trip I think you should re-evaluate and that I would opt out of:
Theme Parks/Water Parks
Although the hot weather may reduce or possibly even eliminate the risk of spreading the virus, theme parks are the perfect places for contagions to spread quickly. You may want to really rethink trips to theme parks for the next few months, at least until the virus is under control
I am very outspoken in my aversion to cruises and freely admit to being very biased. Cruise ships are floating incubators for viruses. They are incredibly difficult to sanitize, which has made them a paradise for a variety of ailments including Norovirus. I have known several people who contracted Norovirus on cruises and who were very ill for months and as long as a year.
We are seeing cruise ships around the world banned from docking due to Coronavirus. As I write this a Princess cruise has been denied entry to San Francisco due to Coronavirus. A passenger from a previous trip on this particular ship (February) died from Coronavirus in California yesterday.
The CDC is helicoptering test kits to 100 passengers who have been identified as “at risk” due to flu-like symptoms and upper respiratory illness. There are 2500 passengers on the ship.
You have to ask yourself is it really worth the risk? But don’t take my word for it. Here is an article from Tara C Smith, professor of epidemiology at Kent State about the dangers of contracting viruses on cruise ships: CRUISE SHIP NIGHTMARE
I hope this post has been helpful to you. If you have additional advice or information for travelers please leave a comment below. If you are a virologist/epidemiologist/microbiologist etc and can refute or add to anything here please do so in the comments below, and if possible link any articles that corroborate your position. I will happily add them to the body of this post. The more facts that can be given (vs my personal opinions) the more helpful this will ultimately be to travelers.