How coronavirus could affect holidays abroad – and what you should do

With coronavirus cases confirmed in Italy and Spain, many people are getting anxious about how this could affect their holidays.
So what is the advice if you have a holiday outside of the UK coming up – or if you’re thinking of booking one?

To begin with, it is worth keeping a close eye on the latest advice from the Foreign Office website, as this is where all travel and leisure companies are getting their guidance from.

Tenerife hotel on lockdown
Industry bodies advise booking with established and trustworthy companies – and, if possible, with businesses that offer a degree of protection.
They also recommend that holidaymakers get travel insurance, and that people follow advice from Public Health England while they are abroad.

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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office updates travel advice for individual countries on a daily basis. When a situation deteriorates significantly, it will often change its travel advice to warn against some travel to that country – as they did for China.

Any changes to FCO guidance place a requirement on travel firms to take that into consideration.

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Sometimes, insurers will not pay out if it appears a person has not followed FCO advice.

Image: A young tourist wearing a protective and a Carnival mask in Venice
In other cases, it may be necessary to seek insurance that covers a person for specific scenarios – such as if they travel with pre-existing medical conditions.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) recommends people speak to their insurers to make sure they are covered.

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I’m over 65 or someone in my party is over 65 – should we travel?
The Foreign Office and Public Health England offers no specific advice – despite the fact that the majority of those diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, have been older people.

Image: Many businesses in parts of northern Italy have shut due to coronavirus
If the holiday I have booked in the future is in an area that becomes affected by coronavirus, what happens?
If your package holiday is booked with an ABTA-affiliated company and the FCO changes its advice about your destination before the trip – advising against travel – your travel company should get in touch to discuss options with you.
If only certain parts of the trip are affected, you may be offered an alternative, but you are not obliged to accept it and can claim a full refund.

If there is some time to go before your holiday, tour operators will wait before offering refunds or alternatives.
ABTA says: “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice is in relation to imminent departures and it is too early to say that your holiday can’t go ahead as planned. Therefore, customers with future departure dates will be required to wait to find out whether the advice changes and their holiday can continue as planned.”

Image: Tourists wearing face masks visit St Peter’s Square in Rome
What happens if FCO travel advice to my destination has not changed?
If the Foreign Office is not advising against travelling to your destination, but you decide not to go anyway, you won’t be entitled to compensation.

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Will I be able to claim on my insurance?
It depends on your insurance policy – and this is why the ABI recommends finding a policy that covers you in the event of the scenarios that you think are most likely to occur.
In any event, you should contact your tour operator or your accommodation provider in the first instance, as you will have a contract with them that covers their cancellation policy.
Depending on your insurance policy, you might then be able to claim for non-refundable costs.

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Mark Shepherd, ABI’s head of general insurance, says: “The most relevant parts of the travel insurance policy wording are likely to be under ‘travel disruption’ or cancellation cover.
“Sometimes these are included as standard or sometimes they are sold at an additional premium as an add-on to more basic cover.
“It is important to note that this will not cover a claim where the customer knew at the time of purchasing the cover that they may be unable to travel.
“Travel insurance policies do differ, but in general cancellation cover or travel disruption cover is linked to the FCO’s advice.
“In any case, airlines or travel providers should be the first port of call for refunds. Travel insurance is for non-refundable losses.”

Image: Tourists wearing sanitary masks walk in downtown Milan, Italy
If my flight is cancelled, what can I do?
A cancellation because of the coronavirus would be treated the same way as a cancellation because of extreme weather conditions.
Any flight to or from an airport in Britain and the EU is still protected under European law despite Brexit.
Depending on the circumstances, you can claim compensation from the airline – and sometimes a new flight or a refund – if a flight is substantially delayed or cancelled.

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If the firm that operates the package holiday I am booked on collapses as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, am I protected?
If you have booked a package holiday in the UK, it must have ATOL protection.
In the event of a company collapse, this scheme aims to minimise the disruption.
If you are yet to travel, you will receive a refund or replacement. If you are on holiday, they will get you home.

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Should I book a cruise?
Many travellers are nervous after what happened aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined for weeks off the coast of Japan.
During the two-week period, 690 people ended up testing positive for COVID-19 out of 3,700 on board. Some scientists have suggested that the ship may have been an incubator for the virus.
The cruise ship industry says it has taken action to prevent further cruises becoming infected, but experts say the ships can be an increased source of respiratory diseases.

Image: Passengers have finally been allowed to disembark the Diamond Princess
The Cruise Lines International Association, an industry body, said: “In co-ordination with cruise lines, medical experts and regulators around the world, CLIA and its member lines will continue to closely monitor for new developments related to the coronavirus and will modify these policies as necessary with the utmost consideration for the health and safety of passengers and crew.
“With strict measures in place, as guided by national and international health authorities, CLIA and its member lines do not believe restrictions on the movement of ships are justified.
“Importantly, the cruise industry is one of the most well-equipped and experienced when it comes to managing and monitoring health conditions of those on board, with outbreak prevention and response measures in place year-round.”

Image: Thousands of people are being quarantined in northern Italy
What if I or someone in my party gets sick before the holiday and are unable to travel?
Getting money back for a cancellation will depend on whether you bought travel insurance in advance, and what your policy says.
Someone must be named on the insurance policy in order to benefit from it.
The ABI stresses that you should read a policy in full before making a purchase.

What if I am on holiday and my location becomes affected by coronavirus?
First and foremost, find out the advice that health authorities in the area are providing to local people and follow that.
Next, see if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have updated their advice.

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If a border has closed and I am unable to travel onwards to my destination, what happens?
The ABI’s Mark Shepherd says: “Where countries are closing borders and not letting people in, there wouldn’t, in general, be an obligation on the insurer to pay claims in these circumstances.
“These are border decisions of individual countries, but we would advise policy holders to speak to their travel insurer in such instances.”

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What happens if I get quarantined after my return?
Many of those who have returned from locked-down areas of northern Italy had little warning that they need to self-isolate and stay at home.
It begs the question of whether employees have any protection if they are forced to take time off from work when they are not actually sick.
Many employers will take a pragmatic view, preferring employees who may put their business at risk to stay away if there is even the slightest chance they have COVID-19.

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But the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, which represents HR professionals, is advising businesses they need to have a range of policies in place.
The CIPD says: “Employees’ health, safety and well-being during a global health emergency like the coronavirus outbreak should be paramount.
“Employers have a statutory duty of care for people’s health and safety and to provide a safe place to work, but there’s also a strong moral responsibility to ensure that employees feel safe and secure in their employment.”

Image: A couple wear face masks as they walk along the Thames embankment in central London
Would it be better to stay in the UK?
The situation remains fluid. It is uncertain whether booking a holiday in the UK rather than going abroad would be safer – particularly considering schools have been closed in the UK where cases have been suspected.
UK tourist authorities say it is too early to determine whether the coronavirus is having an impact on bookings, but they have acknowledged it could have an effect.
Pete Waters, executive director of Visit East of England said: “The situation could become similar to recent years when there have been terror attacks in Europe and Tunisia – people naturally fear for their security and more took the decision to staycation in the UK.
“You can imagine a similar thing will happen with coronavirus, particularly if there are more outbreaks. People will want to be safe and not take risks.
“As the situation stands, I don’t believe there is anxiety from businesses, but that could change quickly if there are outbreaks in the UK.
“Nobody can confidently predict what will happen with this terrible epidemic, but if anyone booking a holiday has concerns about coronavirus abroad, then I know they will find a very warm welcome should they decide to stay in a UK location.”

Source : Sky News