*Updated March 31, 2020
What is coronavirus?
The current outbreak of coronavirus spreading around the world, developed in Wuhan, China in late 2019. The strain, named COVID-19, also known as 2019 Novel Coronavirus, is a respiratory illness that is spreading from ill people to others.
On March 19, the U.S. Department of State issued a level-4 health advisory, urging U.S. citizens and residents to avoid all international travel due to COVID-19. It also advised that if you live in the United States and are currently out of the country, you should return home immediately, adding that “if you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe.”
On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. This will affect international and domestic travel around the world. Please consult your local government’s recommendations about safety and containment of the virus. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) currently recommends that travelers avoid all non-essential travel to the People’s Republic of China, Italy, South Korea or most of Europe, and take reasonable precautions at home and abroad.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of coronavirus can present as flu symptoms and have ranged from little to no symptoms to patients who are extremely ill. COVID-19 can be fatal. Common symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. At this time, the CDC believes that symptoms may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 days after initial exposure to the virus.
How can I protect myself from infection?
As there is currently no vaccine for this strain of coronavirus, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. The CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Are my travel plans affected?
If you are planning on traveling in the coming months, your plans may be changed or canceled if the virus is deemed too dangerous or out of control. The U.S. is currently discouraging its citizens and residents from all international travel. Some airlines are offering to reschedule flights free of charge to avoid unnecessary trips to affected areas. You may want to reconsider or reschedule non-essential trips.
The CDC has issued a global level-3 travel warning, meaning that there is wide-spread community transmission of the coronavirus around the world. The CDC “recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential international travel” at this time.
Should I avoid travel?
Many countries are discouraging travel at this time. If you decide to travel, be sure to take necessary precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones from the virus. Please refer to your local government’s regulations and advisories.
It is inadvisable to travel to or from any country where there is an active travel warning from the CDC. On March 27, 2020, the CDC issued a warning discouraging any international travel at this time.
Does my travel insurance cover coronavirus?
Coverage depends on when you purchase a policy, the plan you choose and your home and destination countries. If you had already purchased travel insurance before the outbreak and before your home or destination country was declared unsafe for travel, your travel insurance policy may cover coronavirus.
A trip insurance plan will not include coronavirus as a covered reason to cancel your trip unless you purchased cancel for any reason coverage and if your purchase meets the criteria of the cancel for any reason benefit. Consider speaking to a qualified travel insurance consultant to discuss your travel situation and get individualized guidance.
You can check the specific insurance company’s coronavirus policies about coronavirus for the following insurance providers:
If I cancel my trip because of coronavirus, will it be covered?
If you have “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage and you cancel your trip within the limits of your contract, you will be covered. If you are planning on taking a trip in the near future, this kind of plan is prudent in case you need to cancel your trip.
If you are canceling a pre-planned trip, you can contact your insurance provider and inquire whether they will cover this instance or not.
Can I change or cancel my travel insurance plan?
Travel insurance policy cancellation varies by plan, but usually you can cancel your policy if you submit the cancellation request prior to the policy start date. Some policies allow you to cancel after the policy start date and receive a refund on a prorated basis, but only if no claim has been filed.
If I am overseas and get the coronavirus, will my domestic health insurance cover it?
Many people may not know that their domestic healthcare most likely will not provide coverage outside of their home country. This is why it’s important to have a travel medical plan while traveling abroad.
However, it is important to note that there may be limitations to what is covered for coronavirus if you purchased the policy after it became a “named event” or if you plan to travel to a location where there are active travel advisories in place.
If I am a U.S. citizen traveling overseas and I get the coronavirus, can my travel insurance help me be evacuated?
Some plans provide coverage for emergency evacuation, either to the nearest hospital or back to the insured’s home country for additional treatment. However, some plans may not provide this benefit if the reason for evacuation is sickness due to an epidemic or pandemic. Be sure to read the policy details carefully before purchasing.
Will my credit card travel insurance cover for the coronavirus?
Check with your credit card company to see if the travel insurance purchased will provide coverage for coronavirus. However, it is important to note that travel insurance through credit card companies generally does not provide comprehensive coverage, especially for medical situations, compared to a plan purchased through a travel insurance company.
What is the airline’s refund policy for my ticket? Can I cancel or change my plan?
Flight change and cancellation policies vary by airline, so it is advised to reach out directly to the airline to determine if you can change or cancel your flight due to the coronavirus outbreak. Some airlines are waiving change and cancellation fees due to coronavirus–read about it here.
Will my airline refund my flight if I decide not to travel due to the coronavirus outbreak?
That is up to the airline company. Although many airlines are making exceptions during this time, it is not guaranteed. You should check with your airline if you have any specific questions.
Have a question not listed here? We realize that this is a difficult time and want to do all we can to help answer your questions. Check out all of our articles on coronavirus or reach out to our customer service team.
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