Quarantine free travel is now open between Australia and New Zealand. Flights started on the 20th of April, with many taking up the opportunity to visit family, and go on an overseas holiday again. There is a lot of excitement from Australians and New Zealanders about the start of the travel bubble, and interest from around the world. There are still some challenges though, one of those is travel insurance, and what is covered.
What Will Your Travel Insurance Cover?
Initially almost all travel insurance providers refused to cover any covid related costs when it became a 'known' issue back in January and February last year. Over time more and more have added varying levels of covid cover to their policies, usually at an extra cost.
Some countries now require travel insurance with covid or coronavirus cover (for medical expenses), as a condition of entry at the border. Some of the countries requiring covid cover are Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Cambodia, Egypt, and French Polynesia. New Zealand and Australia have not yet required it from their residents going between the two countries.
Easy Travel Insurance has been one of the very few travel insurers that supporting travelers through the pandemic.
Cover More Australia, one of Australia's largest and most popular travel insurance providers, has stated that they will cover covid related medical costs in their policies. You can choose an 'add on' for covid cover, when selecting your level of cover. NIB, another large insurance provider in Australia, also offers covid cover (for medical costs).
Qantas has expanded it's cover to include covid related medical costs and up to $2500 (AUD) per person for other related expenses, such as quarantine. However, that amount is unlikely to cover all other expenses, or even the amount for two weeks quarantine.
Emirates has added a level of covid cover into their airline ticket prices, increasing prices by a small margin, so that everyone has it when they fly with them. Their cover does include emergency evacuation as well as medical expenses, but up to a certain limit.
It is important to read through your policy thoroughly before you travel, and consider which provider offers the most relevant/best value for money in relation to covid cover. They do tend to have slightly different limits, inclusions and exclusions among providers.
Many hotels and tourism providers, as well as airlines, are offering free/cheaper date changes with bookings, to encourage people to travel despite possible changes.
What Won't Your Insurance Cover?
While a growing number of providers do offer covid cover now, it is usually just for medical expenses. The occurrence of a sudden border closure is unlikely to be covered. This may mean that people are stuck somewhere for an unknown amount of time, until an outbreak is contained, at their own expense.
It could be that the city you are in goes up an alert level due to new cases in the community, and you then have to pay further living expenses. Borders between countries could also be closed, then you might wait longer for a spot in managed isolation upon your return.
The reason that it is very difficult for insurance providers to cover this type of event is time. It's impossible to know how long it will take a city or country to get an outbreak under control. It may be as little as one or two weeks, but it could also take months. Managed isolation costs in both Australia and New Zealand are high, and if someone tests positive they will often be required to stay longer than the usual two week period.
Should You Still Go?
Both governments, as well as tourism providers, are encouraging people to use the travel bubble. The economies of both countries do need people to use it. Tourism from Australia makes up the biggest portion of all tourism in New Zealand, and New Zealanders are a close second (after China) for the biggest group of tourists in Australia too. This one border opening will make a huge difference for tourism, and the economy in both countries.
For mental health as well, this is a good thing for residents of Australia and New Zealand. Being able to re-unite with family across the border, and knowing some travel is now possible, there won't be such a feeling of being stuck in one place for an unknown period.
Both Australia and New Zealand have covid alert levels and travel warnings shown on government websites. People can check whether the area they plan to go to is low risk, or has a community outbreak before they leave. Most airlines are not charging for date changes at the moment, even quite close to the flight date.
Neither government wants a border closure. They will generally try to contain any new outbreaks locally first. There may be exemptions to leave a local lockdown, if you self isolate at home on arrival back to your home country, or go into managed isolation. They might ask as little of you as just getting a covid test done before your flight.
There will always be some risks when travelling abroad, even just between two neighboring countries. However, those risks are considered minimal, hence opening the border. Do your due diligence when reading your insurance policy, and ask questions if you are unsure. That way you can enjoy your holiday with peace of mind.
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