All at sea with Covid travel advice

Travel insurance label is put on luggage. Travel insurance is intended to cover medical expenses, lost luggage and other losses incurred while traveling. (Travel insurance label is put on luggage. Travel insurance is intended to cover medical expenses
Greg Wilson

WITH lockdown easing, most people are champing at the bit to get summer holidays back on track.

And the latest government announcement has lifted spirits, with 59 countries, including holiday favourites Italy, France and Spain, on the confirmed list of destinations that won't require a 14-day quarantine when the traveller returns home.

This new ‘traffic light' system will help travellers identify where they want to go, help plan journeys and weigh up the risks.

These ‘travel corridors' or ‘air bridges' became effective on July 10 – the same day Northern Ireland will be open to domestic tourists.

Although many are hesitant to go ahead and book their summer break under these conditions, there are financial precautions you can take. Insurance plays a big part in planning for unforeseen circumstances, but obviously the majority of new travel insurance policies are now likely to impose exclusions that specifically exclude many Covid-related risks.

Insurance is designed to protect policyholders against the financial implications of ‘unforeseen risks', so before the coronavirus began to spread, many travel insurance providers would likely have given some level of coverage if a sudden epidemic had disrupted travel plans – provided the insurance policy was taken out around the same time as the travel arrangements were booked, and came into effect before the epidemic began.

Now that Covid-19 is a known risk rather than an unforeseen risk, what might happen to travel plans if there's a second wave of the virus later this year?

That will largely depend on the terms and conditions in your own policy, but it's fair to assume that most insurance companies will exclude a wide range of Covid-related insurance risks from coverage.

Some estimates suggest that more than 50 per cent of insurance providers in the UK suspended the sale of new travel insurance policies during the peak of the pandemic, and while many of the biggest providers have begun offering these policies again, it's vital that travellers are aware of the exclusions that may well apply.

Most travel insurance companies won't cover you if you have to cancel your trip due to the coronavirus, whether you're cancelling because you caught the virus before you were due to travel, or because the FCO changed its guidance on which countries might be safe to visit.

Most providers also won't cover travellers for ‘disinclination to travel', so if a second wave occurs in a region you were planning to visit and it dissuades you from going, you're unlikely to be covered.

On the other hand, if you contract Covid-19 while you're travelling and have to receive medical treatment or be repatriated back the UK, some travel insurance companies will provide cover.

Finally, even if your own insurance company is unwilling to cover you for most Covid-related risks, it's still a wise idea to consider taking out travel insurance. After all, there are a wide range of other potential risks that you should still seek cover for, from being involved in an accident to lost luggage or cancelled flights.

For those intrepid travellers still keen to take to the skies (or the seas) this summer, has a few other tips people should bear in mind:

1 A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) isn't a replacement for travel insurance because it doesn't guarantee free medical treatment in other EU countries – it merely entitles travellers to treatment at the same rate that local residents pay.

2 If someone needs medical treatment while abroad (and they're in a country where medical treatment isn't free) they will usually have to cover the costs themselves and then claim them back on their insurance after they return home.

3 If people are unable to travel due to a medical emergency or a family bereavement, their travel insurance can help to cover the costs – but they should take out the insurance policy at the same time as booking the trip in order to ensure they're covered.

4 If an airline urges passengers to check their hand luggage into the hold shortly before boarding the plane, those carry-on bags and their contents usually won't be covered by their travel insurance.

Travellers should also make sure they pack plenty of hand sanitiser, both in their hold luggage and in 100ml bottles for hand luggage to get through security - ensuring they have ample gloves, face masks and remember social distancing at all times where possible.

On entering each country, even those in the green zone, there will be additional safety precautions and checks such as providing contact information, having a temperature check and undergoing a visual health assessment before they'll let travellers into the country.

:: Greg Wilson is founder and chief executive of Seopa (, founder of and, two of the UK's leading insurance comparison platforms.

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