The company that underwrites much of the travel insurance in Ireland has issued fresh guidelines for people who may be travelling outside the country in the days, weeks and months ahead and are increasingly concerned about the impact of the spread of the coronavirus on their plans.
Mapfre, which underwrites many policies here and also sells under its brand insureandgo.ie, has outlined how and when people will be able to make claims.
The people immediately affected are those who were due to travel to the Hubei province of China and had a trip booked before January 23rd.
Anyone due to travel to mainland China (not including Hong Kong and Macao) with a trip booked before January 28th, and people booked to travel to Codogno, Castiglione d'Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano in northern Italy with a trip booked before February 24th are also among the first affected.
The insurer said people in these categories may be in a position to claim as the Department of Foreign Affairs had said on before the date of departure, that it had advised against “All but essential travel”:
"If the cancellation section of your policy lists as an insured peril cover where the Irish Government announces that travellers are recommended to avoid the country or area you have planned to visit, we will consider cancellation claims within 48 hours of your intended date of departure as long as that advice is in place," Mapfre said.
It said that if policies did not include cover as above, it would consider cancellation claims “on an ex-gratia basis, and within 48 hours of your intended date of departure as long that advice is in place”.
It also advised people to refer to their policy documentation for details of cover available.
“We will pay you for any unused travel and accommodation costs if you have to cancel your trip and any necessary extra travel costs if you have to cut your trip short,” Mapfre said.
It reminded people that it would only consider claims where the date they bought the travel insurance policy preceded the date the Department of Foreign Affairs advised against travel to the intended destination and would only consider non-refundable expenses on your travel insurance policy.
It said that, in the first instance, people should approach airlines, tour operators or travel companies for a possible refund or to see if they will amend itineraries.
People who want to rearrange trip dates, once they are not making a claim, can have a policy transferred to a later date to cover the new trip as long as it is within three months of the original departure date, is for the same or no longer duration and is to the same geographical area.
The company has urged people to check their policy terms and conditions to see exactly what cover their policy provides and how much they can claim for, as different policies vary.
“We can only cover you for the scenarios above if you bought your policy and booked your trip before the [department’s] advice changed to ‘all but essential travel,’ ” it said
The company also reminded people that if their trip did not involve travel to one of the affected areas but they were concerned about the risk of going on a trip, its travel insurance policies would not provide cover “for disinclination to travel”.
The statement said that although it sympathised that people might no longer want to travel on their trip, unless the department advised against travel to their intended destination, there would be “no cover for cancelling or cutting short your trip”.
People who are stuck overseas and unable to return to the Republic will have their existing policy automatically extended in line with the terms and conditions for up to 30 days to cover them until they are reasonably able to return home.