Coronavirus and travel: A primer
As the world is gripped by fears over the spread of coronavirus, what does a traveller need to know?
The deadly new virus – known as 2019-nCoV – causes pneumonia-like symptoms. It emerged in China and is raising concerns about public health and affecting global travel.
To date, the virus has killed 213 people in China and more than 10,000 have been infected globally. More than 20 countries have confirmed cases. The World Health Organization on Jan. 30 declared a global public health emergency but said they were confident in China’s capacity to control the infection. They were concerned about countries that did not have strong public health systems to manage the outbreak.
China’s drastic containment efforts began with the suspension of plane, train and bus links to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people. That lockdown has already expanded to 17 cities affecting more than 50 million people and beyond.
On Jan. 27, the Canadian government issued a travel advisory. Global Affairs Canada is urging Canadians to avoid all travel to the Hubei province of China where the new strain originated. The restriction includes the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang and Ezhoum.
"We have increased our risk level for the province of Hubei. Avoid all travel to the province due to strict travel restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus," Global Affairs announced on Twitter.
In addition, the federal government is advising all travellers to avoid non-essential travel to China and endeavouring to evacuate about 200 Canadian citizens who wish to leave.
There are many types of coronaviruses, which cause everything from the common cold to more serious infections like the one traced to a wildlife market in Wuhan.
In Canada, there are currently three confirmed cases – two in Toronto and one in B.C. The first Canadian patient experienced symptoms onboard China Southern Airlines Flight CZ311. He has been released from the hospital. Health officials have traced all fellow passengers who were seated close to the patient — in a two-metre radius — to determine if others were affected. The second case is the man’s wife, who is also recovering at home.
With the virus causing concern among North American consumers and the quarantine shuttering many tourist sites, we’ve gathered some answers to frequently asked questions regarding the outbreak, travel and insurance:
1) Is it possible to claim for a trip cancelled in fear of the coronavirus?An outbreak of a virus or disease is not a covered reason under many travel insurance policies. However, given the federal government has issued a travel advisory for the Hubei province, some measure of trip cancellation protection may be available. Manulife, for example, states one of the insured risks is “if the Canadian government issues a travel advisory regarding the travel destination.”
2) Is trip protection available if I get sick while travelling?Your plan could have benefits under trip interruption coverage and emergency medical coverage. The emergency medical coverage in a travel insurance plan, for example, could provide reimbursement for medical expenses incurred during the trip. There would be no coverage after the insured has returned home.
3) Is trip protection available should sickness occur prior to travelling? For policies that include trip cancellation coverage, policyholders can claim for cancellation of their trip should they cancel due to the insured, family member or a travel companion becoming seriously ill or dying prior to leaving.
4) What if I’ve planned a trip to China? If you have booked travel routed through Wuhan, check with your airline or travel agency to see if you’re eligible for a refund. Cathay Pacific Airways is waiving rebooking, rerouting and refund charges for all tickets arriving to or departing from Wuhan issued on or before Jan. 21 for travel between now and March 31, 2020. Several other airlines, travel agencies and hotel are offering refunds as well.
This evolving public health issue that will continue to affect travel for the foreseeable future. The most important thing you can do is know the fine print of your policy. If you are unsure, talk to your broker immediately.
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