The outbreak of Coronavirus, which has now spread to numerous countries, will create many problems to individuals and businesses. We have therefore tried to summarise the position regarding insurances as best as possible below but the position will continue to change and in many cases there is no standard policy wording so we would recommend that individual checks are made and hope the following comments will assist.
Coronavirus is classed as a “communicable disease”.
Travel Insurance Policies will exclude travel to any area where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against travel. In respect of China this will affect any travel booked after the 29th January 2020. Up to date FCO advice for all countries can be found at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Disinclination to travel is generally excluded under Policies and it is likely that Insurance Companies will be looking individually at cancellations where the FCO has not issued specific advice. We would recommend initially speaking to your Travel Insurance Helpline before any actions are taken.
A standard Business Interruption Insurance will not provide any cover against these Risks. Whilst Policies may provide an extension for “notifiable diseases”, this would usually list specific diseases and will not include Coronavirus and therefore cover would not apply.
There will still be a need for staff to travel to various countries for business reasons or to attend events. Where there is no FCO specific advice, an Employer should undertake a risk assessment as to the safety of travel. There is no specific advice being issued at present regarding this. Staff must be allowed a choice of whether to travel and specific care should be taken regarding more vulnerable staff. Many Travel Insurance Helplines will be able to offer advice but the final decision must rest with the Employer and Employee.
The China Formula One and the Hong Kong Sevens have already been cancelled and there are likely to be more cancellations throughout the world and in the UK. Event Organisers will need to apply a risk assessment-based approach to the viability of each event. If the event proceeds, suitable emergency planning should be in place should an outbreak occur before or during the event.
Event Cancellation Insurance will not usually include cover for communicable diseases. However, Event Organisers need to be aware that some Supplier’s Terms and Conditions will still require payment to be made.
In many cases there is no clear position as to what is the correct action to take and an Employer should therefore always undertake a risk assessment and clearly document the reasons for decisions taken.
Whilst this article provides an overview, each Employer and individual will need to make their own decisions as no Government Guidelines have been issued except in respect of where the FCO have issued specific country advice.