Do insurance policies need coronavirus risk amendments to encourage travel?

No change has yet been introduced regarding insurance policies for travelers against the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak, as tourist rates fall to unprecedented numbers — which threatens to prevent the issuing of documents that would take into account treatment costs for coronavirus cases.

No international insurance institution has hitherto decided on this matter, despite the world’s preparation to coexist with the virus.

Some countries, such as Cyprus and the UAE, have announced their readiness to treat any visitor who catches the virus on their land, but this step is not enough to encourage global travel under acceptable health safety guarantees.

Within the European Union the insurance policy that travelers are obliged to obtain in return for a reasonable premium against the risks stipulated in their contract is a maximum of 30,000 euros.

In Egypt this does not exceed US$20,000 and is not binding at certain travel destinations.

With the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic there is now more of an urgent need to cope with increased risks around the world, as confirmed by Hany Ibrahim, a senior official with an insurance company, who said that no changes have been made thus far regarding tourist policies.

The current insurance policy does not allocate a specific service to compensate in the event of a global pandemic, he said.

Instead, he explained that traveler insurance policies usually cover the costs of injuries, emergencies and transferring the bodies of deceased tourists, among other things stipulated in insurance policies.

He added that insurance companies have not yet been notified from any local or international authority on decisions or recommendations for insurance amendments regarding the coronavirus or travelers sickened by it while abroad. 

If that happens, an increase in the fees and premiums paid by the customer will most likely be imposed, he said.

Ibrahim stated it is illogical for an insurance company in one country to bear the infection costs for a citizen in another, unless done so through a framework of international agreements and detailed protocols.

He hoped that this situation would become clearer by next July, and said that insurance companies will readily implement any thoughtful measures or amendments in line with global efforts to return to normal life and provide better conditions to encourage tourism’s return.

And Wael Taha, the director of an insurance company, stressed that travel insurance policies in place so far do not cover treating coronavirus cases because insurance companies would then incur very large and often unaffordable burdens.

Any amendments to insurance policy provisions need to be studied well, even if it means increasing the fees paid by customers, he said.

Taha anticipates that instead of amending insurance policies to consider pandemics, the global trend will be for countries to announce treating sick visitors at its own expense.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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