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Coronavirus – What Are Your Travel Rights?

The novel COVID-19 pandemic is now spreading well beyond China and is affecting more than 210 countries across the globe. Businesses are closed, schools are shut down, and cities are under strict lockdown. Immigration applications are halted and travelers are constantly being advised by health care authorities and FCO to cancel or postpone all non-essential travel for an unspecified period of time.

With more than 108,692 people infected and 14,576 casualties, UK is currently struggling really hard to cope with the Coronavirus challenge. The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already decided to elevate the country’s response to the outbreak, introducing new measures and implementing the suspension strategy to reduce the spread.

Travelers returning from 9 Asian countries have also been advised to stay in quarantine and avoid contact with people if they observe any symptoms. These countries include Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Macau, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.

Noticeably, airlines and all prominent holiday companies haven’t cancelled any of their schedules and are still taking passengers to these countries. According to insurers, the cancellations won’t be covered by the policies except for China.

Because of the current COVID-19 crisis, airlines and holiday companies are being contacted by hundreds of confused customers who either are willing to cancel their travelling plans or reroute journeys to avoid places affected by the outbreak.

Since the Foreign Office is advising against all but unavoidable travel to China especially to Hubei Province, you’ll risk your insurance policy if you do not follow this advice (even if you’re able to argue that this journey was unavoidable). On the other hand, if you’re already in China, your insurance cover may not be applicable in Hubei (you may, however, benefit from it in other Chinese provinces).

All in all, it’s important that you do not go to the countries listed on the PHE list as your insurance policy might not cover you in those particular areas.

Changes Your Travel Policy Will Cover

The major determinant here is the date the FCO started advising people to cancel travel plans to certain countries. Majority of insurance companies will only cover cancellations from that specific point subject to you haven’t received any sort of advice or benefit from your airline or holiday company. But obviously, this situation varies from company to company.

What about Holiday Companies?

If you have purchased a holiday package for China, the tour operator is liable to refund you the money. However, each company is following a certain set of rules on how far ahead they’ll accommodate cancellations.

In case your visit to China was just a part of your entire holiday journey, the company can change the destination and offer an alternative holiday plan. But you must ask for a full refund if there’s a huge change to the basic plan.

According to tour operators, they are monitoring the current situation on a daily basis and contacting customers who have purchased tour plans for China until the end of April to communicate with other possible solutions.

It’s noteworthy that British Airways will revise or refund bookings to China and Hong Kong until 29th Feb. Similarly, Virgin Atlantic has postponed its flights to Shanghai until 29th March.

You can also make a curtailment claim if you’re outside the country and the FCO decides to cancel all non-essential travel. In that case, you would be entitled to claim for unutilised travel, accommodation, and some amount to return back to the UK.

If in case your air route includes a stop in an infected area, you can request your travel operator to transfer you to another route. If you’ve been asked to pay an additional fee to change the flight, you can use your travel policy as it may involve the additional travelling expenditures or the entire cancellation cost.

Due to the rising positive cases in Europe, the UK has also advised all European Union members to close their borders to visitors. According to recent statistics, more than 243,000 people across the globe are infected out of which 80,000 belong to the European countries.

According to Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, “The less we travel, the more we can contain the virus.”

 “Our measures to contain the Coronavirus outbreak will be effective only if we coordinate on the European level.”

“We have to take exceptional measures to protect the health of our citizens”, she added.

All in all, this is a tough situation for everyone including passengers, airlines, insurers, and tour operators. The UK has already seized all of its immigration operations involving any type of face-to-face interaction.

In fact, we have observed significant changes in almost all procedures be it British Citizenship, bail hearing, or detention. And obviously, travelling is not an exception. Currently, it is definitely better to stay at home and do not travel unless it’s extremely essential.

Stay Home, Stay Safe…

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