Some destinations are now offering COVID-19 insurance to entice tourists. What does this mean for you?

Aug 7, 2020

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The Canary Islands and Portugal have introduced new offers to entice British travellers to return this year. For each, the destinations are saying they will now cover the medical expenses, repatriation back to home country and extended stays necessitated by quarantine for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 while they are visiting.

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Each region’s offer works slightly differently. The Independent reports that for the Canary Islands, the coverage is offered at no cost as a new initiative between the Canaries’ Department of Tourism, Industry and Commerce and insurance firm AXA. It will cover British travellers, provided they stay in tourist accommodation and not with family or friends. Unlike a traditional travel insurance policy, it is focused purely on COVID-19 contraction risks and consequences.

Related: What you need to know about travelling to and from Spain right now

Portugal is offering a paid insurance policy with wider coverage, more akin to traditional travel insurance, starting from €37.20 for 10 days of travel, specifically covering newly booked COVID-19 era trips. This can be an attractive offer, given traditional travel insurance policies will not usually cover COVID-19 where policyholders travel against government advice.

Related: Does my travel insurance cover COVID-19?

British travellers normally flock in droves to both the Canary Islands and Portugal each year. During summer in particular, Tenerife and the Algarve region especially will be full of British sun-seekers. This summer, however, the tourism industries in both countries has been decimated by COVID-19 travel cancellations, compounded by the recent reversals of some of the U.K. government’s travel restrictions.

These offers from the Canaries and Portugal follow protections offered by Emirates last month, which became the world’s first airline to offer health insurance protection for anyone flying with them who then contracts COVID-19 until October.

So does this solve the dilemma of your sunny summer holiday? Not quite. For starters, remember you will be required to quarantine for 14 days on your return to England from both the Canaries and Portugal, and neither policy will cover you if you miss work because of quarantine requirements in the U.K. If you breach the quarantine requirement, you could be fined up to £1,000, which will certainly not be covered by these policies.

Related: What happens if you ignore government advice to travel right now?

The Canary Islands offer does not cover travellers who were aware they had contracted COVID-19 before leaving home. If you are feeling unwell, you should be isolating completely and not travelling.

There are also several exclusions to both policies. For example, the paid Portugal policy excludes any claims for mishaps where the policyholder had a blood alcohol level of more than 0.05%. Have a few drinks with dinner in Lagos and your policy may be void for the rest of the evening. Paragliding and even fishing are also excluded. You should read through the coverage and exclusions of either policy very carefully to understand what is covered and what isn’t — do not assume it’s the same as a normal travel insurance policy. You also will not be covered for U.K. medical expenses on your return home, where you contract COVID-19 in these destinations.

The U.K. government advice at the time of writing remains that British travellers should avoid all non-essential travel to all of Spain and Portugal.

Featured image by @dominiks. via Twenty20

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