How Covid-19 Affects You, Your Insurance And Travel Plans
Face masks are running out again but this time, it’s not caused by the haze. The outbreak of the mysterious new coronavirus that originated in the central city of Wuhan in China has gripped the world. Many health advisories are now recommending the use of face masks for those at risk.
Officially known at the 2019 novel coronavirus (scientific name 2019-nCoV), it is practically a new virus with no available vaccine or medicine yet.
How does this outbreak affect us in Malaysia and what steps can we take to prevent infection?
The only way is to be prepared with accurate information and be on the guard against fake news that can cause unnecessary panic.
Here’s what we know so far
[UPDATED 19/02/2020] On the local front, the Health Ministry (MoH) has confirmed that there are 22 cases of people diagnosed with the infection in Malaysia.
To date, 13 of those patients have fully recovered and have been discharged.
Following is the roundup on worldwide cases provided by MoH [updated 19/02/2020]:
What you can do to keep safe
Infected people are likely to show symptoms like fever, cough and difficulty in breathing. For now, preventive measures are the best way to protect yourself.
Following is the advisory published by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The MoH has also advised the use of face masks when in close contact with large numbers of people and public crowds.
Practising recommended hygiene and precautionary measures are the best approach. However, if you do start feeling unwell, don’t panic.
What to do if you fall sick
The last thing you should do is cause unnecessary panic and increase the chances of spreading your illness to others. Keep calm and contain the infection by restricting your contact with others (including avoiding domestic and international travel). You should also put on a face mask if you are sick and need to be in crowded public spaces.
Here’s how to wear your face mask correctly.
If you do suspect that you have contracted the dreaded virus, you can seek treatment from this list of hospitals identified to handle Wuhan virus cases in Malaysia.
Does your insurance cover a coronavirus infection?
Generally, if you have a hospitalization and surgical coverage plan, it should be covered under your health insurance policy, This virus infection is not a pre-existing condition, so you should be covered if you get admitted into the hospital for treatment of the symptoms.
Major insurers in Malaysia, including Prudential, AIA and Great Eastern have come forward to confirm that their medical plans do cover hospitalization treatment related to this virus, subject to their customers’ respective plans terms and conditions.
What about your travel plans?
While some hotels and airlines are voluntarily offering free refunds and options to change travel bookings free of charge, this might not be applicable to your travel arrangements. Generally, an outbreak of a virus or disease is not covered under most travel insurance plans for trip cancellations.
Some booking platforms and agencies are offering free refunds for tickets and bookings purchased for cruises, car rentals and entry to tourist attractions located in China. This may not be the case for your own bookings so it’s best to check with your vendor.
What about the travel insurance you purchased for your trip?
Generally, travel insurance covers medical coverage if you fall ill during your trip and in some cases, trip cancellation fees as well.
This means that if you fall sick while travelling, your travel insurance will likely cover any emergency medical treatment during the trip. After all, that is the whole purpose of getting travel insurance so that you have access to medical evacuation and repatriation in the event that you become ill and have to be transported home.
While travel insurance normally covers cancellation fees and lost deposits for unused travel and accommodation arrangements, there are also exclusions. Most travel insurance plans include exclusions for epidemics and travel advisories.
This means it will not cover claims related to an epidemic or pandemic. The same goes for claims arising from travel to countries that already have official travel advice or warning and alerts issued to potential visitors.
For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had issued a travel advisory concerning the coronavirus outbreak in China last week. This could be used as an exclusion clause for travel insurance providers.
Finally, let common sense prevail. We should always practice self-hygiene to prevent infection and take steps to avoid transmitting it if we fall ill. Be sure to get your information on the Wuhan virus from reliable official sources and be on your guard against false rumours being spread on social media.