Coronavirus Information for Customers

Published 18 May 2020

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is causing significant ongoing disruption to people’s travel plans. The below details COVID-19 related cover available on Columbus Direct policies (for residents of the Middle East). Please note that it is provided as a guide only.

  • If you have questions relating to your specific circumstances, we encourage you to contact us to discuss.

Cover available under your policy will depend on several factors. These will include your specific circumstances as well as the date the policy was purchased, the date the trip was booked, the destination of travel and travel advisories from the World Health Organisation (WHO), British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and equivalent authorities for your Country of Residence.  Cover is subject to the standard policy terms, and claims will be assessed on a case by case basis.




Is there cover for COVID-19 related claims on my policy?

There are no general exclusions on our policy that relate to epidemics or pandemics. However, there is a general exclusion for claims resulting from a circumstance which could reasonably have been foreseen as likely to give rise to a claim by the insured person at the time the insurance was effected or the trip was booked.

On 31st January 2020, WHO deemed the COVID-19 outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. As of that date the insurer considers COVID-19 to be a known event globally. If you purchased your policy or booked your trip AFTER 31st January 2020, it is unlikely there will be cover for COVID-19 related claims. You can still lodge a claim if you wish. Every claim is assessed individually. The claim decision will be based on the policy wording and your individual situation. If your claim is denied, you can dispute the finding. Please refer to page 19 of the Policy Wording for information on our complaints process.  

If you purchased your policy and booked a trip BEFORE 31st January 2020, then COVID-19 related claims will be covered subject to usual terms and conditions.


Minimising losses should you cancel your trip

In the event of a covered Cancellation, our insurance only provides cover for amounts that you are unable to recover from the relevant provider(s). You should note that there are exclusions for losses arising from your failure to, or delay in, notifying your travel providers about the possible need to cancel your trip, and expenses payable by a tour operator, hotel, airline or other carrier.  You should therefore exhaust all other potential avenues of recovery before making a claim under your insurance. This includes attempting to recover costs from tour operators, accommodation providers and airlines. If your airline cancels your flight, then you should be entitled to a refund or a credit note for a future trip. Please note that credit notes and vouchers for future trips will be deemed as refunds. As such, these sums are generally not recoverable from insurers.


Official Travel Advisories and general policy cover

It is a general exclusion of the policy that there is no cover under any section of the policy if you travel to a country, specific area or event which the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), World Health Organisation (WHO) or equivalent authority of your Country of Residence has advised against travel or all but essential travel. This is the case even if you purchased your policy prior to that advice being in place.  

There is no cover under any section of a policy if you are in a country or region when FCO, WHO or the equivalent authority of your Country of Residence advises against travel or all but essential travel, if you decide to remain there even though you were able to leave. If you are overseas and are unable to return, please contact our Emergency Assistance helpline for guidance.


Cancellations and rescheduling due to a Travel Advisory applicable to the policy

If you purchased your policy before FCO, WHO or the equivalent authority of your Country of Residence advised against travel or all but essential travel, then please contact your airline, accommodation and tour providers as soon as possible to assess your cancellation or rescheduling entitlements. If you have outstanding out of pocket expenses after this is done, then you can submit a claim. Your claim will be assessed with reference to the full policy terms.  

The following points should be noted:

  • Always ensure you are aware of the terms and conditions of your travel, accommodation and/or tour bookings before you contact your providers to cancel. If you had a right to a refund under the terms and conditions at the time of purchase, then your provider is not generally permitted to change the terms later to deny you a refund.
  • If you have payments due, where possible ask the provider if there is any opportunity to defer payment deadlines, then call us to discuss the implications of making payment in terms of the cover provided under your policy.
  • If your destination does not have a warning against travel (or all but essential travel) from FCO, WHO or the equivalent authority of your Country of Residence at the time you are scheduled to go there, then this may prejudice your right to a claim under your policy. If you need to cancel your trip due to an advisory from one of the noted authorities and are within 30 days of your intended trip date, please contact us to discuss the situation and we will advise the cover available given your circumstances.
  • If you would like further detail about your general rights as a consumer, we would suggest visiting the website of the authority in your Country of Residence that oversees consumer affairs. 


What if your travel or accommodation provider becomes insolvent?

There is a general exclusion on the policy in the case of insolvency of a travel agent, tour operator or organiser, airline, accommodation provider or carrier. If your travel or accommodation provider becomes insolvent and you had paid for them by credit card then you may be able to recover the funds via your credit card company, as the service offered was not supplied.


Cover by section

The sections of our policy that provide cover in relation to an epidemic are outlined below, however you should read the Policy Wording for the full policy cover, terms and conditions. The cover below is only available to those who meet the policy cover criteria including the outbreak related policy conditions outlined above.

  • Overseas Medical Expenses (Policy Wording page 9) – if you purchased your policy before COVID-19  was deemed a known event, and you didn’t travel to, or remain in, an area or country where FCO, WHO or the equivalent authority of your Country of advises against either travel or non-essential travel, normal cover terms and conditions will apply if you contract the virus whilst overseas. There is no cover for any medical or quarantine costs incurred within your Country of Residence. This includes costs related to your being quarantined prior to your official entry.

  • Cancellation (Policy Wording page 7) – there is certain cover for irrecoverable travel and accommodation costs if your trip is necessarily and unavoidably cancelled prior to its start date as a result of a regulation from the Government of your Country of Residence following an epidemic that stops you from travelling. The advice must be in place at the date your trip commences. Please also note the related detail at the Minimising your losses should you cancel your trip and Cancellations and rescheduling due to a Travel Advisory applicable to the policy sections above. NOTE: the reasonable costs of rescheduling your trip will be considered if you would otherwise have had to cancel, provided those costs are not greater than the irrecoverable cancellation fees or lost deposits.

  • Catastrophe (Policy Wording page 14) – there is certain cover for irrecoverable travel and accommodation expenses necessarily incurred if you’re forced to move from your pre-booked accommodation to continue your trip as a result of a medical epidemic or local Government directive which is confirmed in writing by local or national authority. If the trip cannot be continued, you can claim this cover in relation to your return home instead.


Annual Multi-Trip policies and renewal

Given the unprecedented impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, we made the difficult decision to suspend sales of our travel insurance products indefinitely. If you have a current Annual Multi-Trip policy, this will not be affected. But, unfortunately, we will not in a position to offer you the opportunity to purchase another policy when it expires. Should you require a travel insurance policy at this time, then you may wish to find an alternative insurer. If there is anything you wish to discuss in this regard, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.