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Will travel insurance cover coronavirus? Experts break down why and why not


The decision to travel amid a viral disease outbreak can be harrowing, but that’s what purchasing travel insurance is for — right?

According to experts, it depends on when.

The general consensus is that the coronavirus will be covered by travel insurance providers as long as the insurance was purchased prior to a government “no non-essential travel” or “do not travel” advisory.

John Shmuel, managing editor at Lowestrates.ca, said that whether or not insurance will cover disease outbreak is less about the coronavirus itself being covered, as much as it is the conditions surrounding when a person is travelling — in this case, flying to a country for which the Government of Canada has issued a travel advisory, specifically China.

“It’s not coronavirus that’s being covered per se, it’s any medical emergencies,” he said.

“If you’re buying travel insurance right now, most consumer policies will deny you because there is an advisory in place.”

Shmuel said a variety of consumer policies include epidemics and pandemics, provided consumers purchase insurance before they happen.

Those looking to purchase travel insurance after the government advisory change may be out of luck.  However, “if you bought your insurance before this outbreak happened, before the advisory, and you get sick, then your insurance company will cover it, they’ll cover your treatment there, and they’ll likely fly you back home,” Shmuel said.

He added that trip cancellation insurance, which often goes hand-in-hand with travel insurance, could save someone thousands of dollars on typically non-refundable flights with major airlines.

In February, the Canadian government updated its China travel advisory, urging Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel in and out of the country.

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In the province of Hubei, the advisory was updated to “avoid all travel,” including the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang and Ezhou, due to the imposition of heavy travel restrictions in order to limit the coronavirus from spreading.

The Canadian government said many of the initial cases of the disease outbreak were linked to the Huanan Seafood Market (also known as Wuhan South China Seafood City and South China Seafood Wholesale Market). The market was closed Jan. 1 for cleaning and disinfection, but the source of the virus is still unknown.


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