, How to get the best travel insurance with Covid cover for green and amber countries this summer, Nzuchi Times

How to get the best travel insurance with Covid cover for green and amber countries this summer

, How to get the best travel insurance with Covid cover for green and amber countries this summer, Nzuchi Times

Holidays are back. Whether you’re planning a quarantine-free trip to the green list, taking an amber gamble or are planning to make the most of the new rules to scrap quarantine for double-jabbed holidaymakers returning from the amber list, arranging travel insurance has never been more confusing.

One of the biggest frustrations of the way the Government has defined its traffic light system, mainly the amber list, is the effect it is having on travel insurance policies. Whether your fully vaccinated or not, travel to a few destinations within the amber zone and nearly all policies will cover you.  Travel to all the rest and your policy is almost certainly to be invalidated – and you may not even realise it. Confused? You’re not alone.

Then there’s the issue of what policies will actually cover. Which? has warned that travellers are being given a “false impression” as to what insurers will, and will not, cover this summer. This is due to a raft of exclusions, brought in due to the pandemic, and ambiguities over what ‘covid cover’ actually means.

Right at the start of the pandemic insurance providers moved swiftly to exclude claims related to the pandemic. Generally speaking, all policies sold after March 17, 2020 greatly reduced their cover and virtually all these have now expired. Only during last summer and autumn did less restrictive policies start to be offered, and many of these still had important exclusions. 

So what should you do about covering yourself? How can you be sure you have a decent policy which isn’t hedged about by exclusions and restrictions? Can you get insurance for an amber-list holiday? And how do you go get a refund?

Here are your key questions answered.

What is causing the confusion over amber list insurance?

The confusion arises because, while the Department for Transport decides on the colour of the traffic light, the Foreign Office (FCDO) is responsible for issuing travel advice and it has decided to vary that advice for different destinations within the amber zone.

Despite Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirming that the Government is lifting its blanket recommendation that people should not travel to amber countries from July 19, when fully vaccinated travellers will be able to visit amber-list destinations without the need to quarantine on their return home, the Foreign Office may still advise against non-essential trips to some of the 140-plus destinations on the amber list.

On the basis of the risks of exposure to Covid-19, it still warns against “all but essential travel” for the vast majority of amber-rated countries – however it has lifted its advice for key holiday hotspots Spain, Greece and France. While this advice remains for other destinations, it is standard practice for travel insurance to suspend cover if you ignore this advice. And if you bought your policy before the traffic light system was introduced on May 17 and the FCDO began to change its advice, you probably didn’t even realise that you won’t be covered. 

The confirmed amber list countries and what it means for your holiday

Does it make a difference how I am travelling?

Advice against all but essential travel also affects package holidays – tour operators are legally obliged to cancel your trip and offer you a refund if the destination you are booked to go to is proscribed by the FCDO. However, travellers who have booked independently are still free to travel and it is they who are most affected by the insurance issues.

So, which amber destinations are still covered by insurance?

FCDO advice against travel doesn’t apply to several key holiday destinations, now including all of Spain, France, Greece and Portugal. If you are booked to travel to any of these, then your insurance should still be valid as normal. But it’s vital to check the latest advice just before you travel (gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice).

What to do if your green list holiday destination turns amber

Can I get insurance for other amber zone destinations?

With vaccinated travellers now given the green light to visit the amber list quarantine-free from July 19 many people will be looking for ways to get insured for their trip. A handful of insurers do now offer cover for many countries even when the FCDO advises against all but essential travel. These include Staysure (staysure.co.uk), Campbell Irvine (campbellirvinedirect.com) and Battleface (battleface.com). Our detailed guide is here

Will a GHIC card cover me?

The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) replaces the old EHIC arrangements, which gave British citizens access to free or low-cost medical treatment in EU countries.  It doesn’t offer you anything like the same protections that travel insurance does, but it does entitle you to “free or reduced cost state-provided healthcare where treatment becomes medically necessary during a temporary visit to the European Union (EU).” If you still have a valid EHIC, then it will remain valid in EU countries until its expiry date. If not, you can order a new GHIC up to six months before the expiry of an existing card. You can also order one for your partner and any dependent children. Apply at ghic.org.uk. There is also a phone number (0300 330 1350) or you could print off the online application form and apply by post.

Anything else I should consider?

When you buy cover, ask for explicit reassurance that your intended destination will be covered. And remember that, if you aren’t travelling for a few weeks yet, it’s perfectly possible that the traffic light and the FCDO advice, or both, may well change before you depart. So you don’t need to panic yet, just keep a close eye on it.

Can I get a refund if your policy isn’t valid? 

That’s a tricky question. Certainly if you bought it after May 17, you told the insurer where you were travelling, and the trip was happening within the next month or so, then I think you should ask for your money back. If not you will have a harder time of it: most policies now exclude the risks of changing FCDO advice.

Will quarantine be waived for double-vaccinated travellers?

Yes, from July 19 fully-vaccinated holidaymakers will be able to travel to amber list countries with their children from without having to quarantine.

All travellers aged over 18 will be expected to take a pre-departure test before flying back to the UK and will have to pay for a PCR test on or before day two but they will not have to quarantine for 10 days as now.

Children under 18 who have not been vaccinated will be exempt if they are travelling with someone who has been fully vaccinated but most of them will still have to undergo PCR tests on their return to the UK.

What if I catch Covid before my holiday and can’t fly?

No insurance policy covers your costs if you unilaterally decide to cancel your holiday; this remains the case even if you believe there is very reasonable cause for you to do so.

However, Covid-19 has brought a whole new dimension to the risks of having to cancel or change your holiday. And we don’t yet know which scenarios are likely to be a risk in future. There are obvious ones, such as contracting the disease prior to departure (or testing positive) and a requirement to self isolate because of exposure to someone who has the disease. Some policies do now cover this – see table – though all are subject to strict definitions. Find out what happens if you get track-and-traced before your holiday here.

What if I have to cancel due to a national or local lockdown?

Note that I couldn’t find any policies which would cover cancellation because of the imposition of a national or local lockdown or a change in FCDO advice here or intended destination. This relates to when your “green” holiday destination, as defined by the Government’s traffic light system, turns red or amber, either shortly before travel or while you are away. It similarly might involve a situation where you will forced to quarantine in a hotel on return to the UK, if a country turns red while you are away.

The mitigation for this risk is that so many airlines and tour operators have introduced flexible booking policies which enable you to postpone or rebook your travel until a later date. In some cases – British Airways, for example – these are as late as the opening of check-in just before a flight departs. This means in effect that the financial consequences of cancellation are much lower than they used to be. Since you are much better off booking with an airline or operator which offers such flexibility, then you don’t need to worry so much about this aspect of the policy.

See here for more information. 

What if I catch Covid-19 while abroad?

Of course, the risk we would all do well to be most wary of is being hospitalised with Covid-19 while travelling. The positive news here is the new agreement with the EU to replace the EHIC card – now known as the GHIC card (see above). This means that UK citizens are now entitled to “free or reduced cost state-provided healthcare where treatment becomes medically necessary during a temporary visit to the European Union (EU).” However, good travel insurance policies do now cover the cost of private treatment (see table) and also medical repatriation if necessary, and they will also give you cover outside the EU.

What if I catch Covid and have to extend my stay?

Less certain is cover for the additional accommodation and travel costs if you are forced to extend your holiday because of Covid-19. Some policies do cover you if you suffer a positive test and have to do this. But a requirement to self isolate because of exposure to someone with the virus is a much greyer area. Only one insurer in our survey – Campbell Irvine, see table – said that it would also cover this if the instruction to self isolate was given by  a “treating” doctor or the local authorities.

What if my tour operator or airline collapses?

Obviously tour operators and airlines are not in great shape at the moment. So you do need to be wary of the risks of financial collapse. A few policies offer cover for this, though sometimes you have to pay an extra premium. But the best protection is make sure you book with an Atol-bonded tour operator (caa.co.uk/atol-protection) which guarantees a refund in the event of a collapse. An alternative back up is to book your travel arrangements using a credit card. The bank or card issuer liable under the Consumer Credit Act if you lose money when the company you have paid with that card goes out of business.

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