Medics help a patient walk into a hospital in Wuhan, China.

South African insurance companies have started offering Covid-19-specific cover, and some are actively advertising this as a benefit to those who have international travel plans.

The first positive test for Covid-19 in South Africa was announced on Thursday - but the virus has affected international destinations, and the global travel industry, for several weeks. 

As a general rule, most travel insurance policies exist to cover unforeseen events, but they exclude coverage for pandemics and epidemics. This means any costs associated with medical expenses, trip cancellation, or disinclination to travel will be at the traveller’s own expense.

But some insurance companies have updated their policy terms and conditions - and publicised these via press releases - in order to appeal to South Africans who still wish to travel at this time.

Hollard is one company that’s seized the moment. The company issued a Covid-19press release that confirmed that its travel insurance policyholders are covered for medical expenses and trip cancellations relating to the virus. 

The company says policyholders who contract the virus while on a trip “will be covered up to the limit of liability under your policy’s overseas medical expenses benefit (subject to the excess amount)”. 

Hollard is also covering full-blown trip cancellations related to the Coronavirus - even for policyholders who have simply changed their minds about travelling for fear of contracting the virus. 

“If you are not ill but you do not want to risk travelling to another country, you can also claim – but you must both have purchased your policy within 24 hours of paying your trip deposit, and you must cancel your trip more than 48 hours before departure,” says the press release.

Travel Insurance Consultants (TIC) is the largest provider of travel insurance in Southern Africa, who provides several travel insurance products directly - or via companies like Travel Centre. 

According to TIC, “All TIC policy-holders are fully covered for emergency medical and related expenses should the traveller contract the coronavirus on a journey.” 

In these cases the company will cover expenses for medical transportation and repatriation, but falls short of offering coverage for a voluntary change of plans, or “disinclination to travel”.

In the event of unavoidable global travel bans relating to Covid-19, TIC clients will need to have signed up for Unspecified Event Cancellation cover - and this will only cover travellers who purchased their travel insurance “within 48 hours of making the  first payment towards their trip”.

Other insurers who’ve chosen not to publicise their Coronavirus policies may well do so - but unless stated exclusively, most travel insurance won't cover epidemic outbreaks like Covid-19.

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