COVID-19 impact on travel insurance

The University has reviewed and updated the COVID-19 travel insurance guidelines based on advice provided by the University’s travel insurance, AIG to reflect developments up to 26 April 2022. These guidelines may be updated based on further advice provided by AIG.

Underlying these guidelines is the principle that the University’s priority is the safety and wellbeing of its students. Any decisions should be made bearing this in mind.

All students wishing to book or commence overseas travel should follow the approval processes outlined on the Student insurance page.

The insurance has emphasized that individual instances will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, looking at all the relevant circumstances. Below, we’ve put together some general guidelines to inform decision making in relation to the impact of COVID-19. These will be updated as more information becomes available.

Types of cost where travel insurance cover could be relevant

As an underlining principle, the University’s insurance cover only applies to students traveling on University-approved study or business.

In relation to COVID-19, there are three key types of cost where potential insurance cover would be relevant:

  • cover for the cost of canceling travel such as loss of deposits and additional expenses (eg cancellation costs of air tickets and accommodation) because of COVID-19 concerns
  • cover for medical costs if students contract COVID-19 whilst overseas
  • cover for medical evacuation costs if students contract COVID-19 whilst overseas.

Cover for costs associated with being in quarantine overseas due to COVID-19, or having to stay overseas for longer than planned because of travel bans imposed due to COVID-19, may not be covered under the University’s travel insurance policy – ​​these would be assessed on a case-by-case basis by the insurer.

The costs of quarantine within Australia would not be covered by travel insurance.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Smartraveller travel advisory ratings

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT), through the Smartraveller website, provides travel advisories highlighting potential risks for Australian travelers. The advisories have four official advice levels:

  • Level 1 – exercise normal safety precautions
  • Level 2 – exercise a high degree of caution
  • Level 3 – reconsider your need to travel
  • Level 4 – do not travel.

The Smartraveller website provides easy access to country-by-country updates on the current travel advisory ratings. The status of countries affected by COVID-19 is changing constantly, so please check the Smartraveller website regularly for the latest information.

On 18 March 2020, DFAT had raised its travel advisory level to 4 – do not travel – for all overseas travel. The Australian Federal and State Governments have now eased travel restrictions for Australian citizens, residents and other persons traveling within, to and from Australia and this advisory seeks to clarify the position of the University’s insurance in terms of coverage under the travel insurance policy in relation to COVID-19.

Impact of travel advisory ratings on insurance cover

The travel advisory ratings are one of the key indicators used by the insurer to determine whether insurance cover will be active/respond to a claim. The insurer’s default position will be that individuals should reasonably be aware of the risks of COVID-19. The insurer will use these two factors, amongst others, when appropriate whether a particular claim is covered or not.

The Smartraveller website provides step-by-step travel guidance on aspects that people traveling during COVID-19 should consider from the time they start planning their trip to the moment they arrive back in Australia.

What this means for students traveling overseas

The following notes provide general guidelines only. In practice, the insurer would look at each case individually,considering all relevant circumstances, before determining whether the case was covered by insurance.

All students wishing to book or commence overseas travel should follow the approval processes outlined on the Student insurance page.

Loss of deposits and additional expenses

Travel cancellation and loss of deposits cover is intended to respond to losses caused directly by the unforeseeable cancellation of travel and/or accommodation expenses outside the control of the insured person.

As COVID-19 is now a foreseen or known event, there is limited cover available under section 3 – Loss of Deposits and Additional Expenses of the University’s travel insurance policy. The insurer has advised that claims for travel cancellation or loss of deposits caused by or due to COVID-19 related incidents may not be payable unless they are in relation to the circumstances outlined below.

  • If diagnosed with COVID-19 prior to departure, students will be covered for trip cancellation, provided they have a confirmed and documented diagnosis at the time of departure. Cover is subject to the terms and conditions of the University’s travel insurance policy.
  • If diagnosed with COVID-19 while on a covered trip, students will be covered for reasonable and necessary additional cancellation/curtailment/interruption expenses, as long as they have a confirmed and documented diagnosis, and their trip was not in conflict with any travel restrictions or advice. Cover is subject to the terms and conditions of the University’s travel insurance policy.

There is no cover available for:

  • trip cancellation if you cancel your trip because of disinclination to travel, change of mind or fear of traveling
  • trips where travel restrictions are applicable due to government orders, advisories, regulations, directives, or border closures in relation to COVID-19.

Please note that quarantine costs are also not covered under the University’s travel insurance policy.

If the DFAT advice was between level 1 to 3 when booking travel but this changes to level 4 – do not travel before departure, the University’s general insurance broker (Aon) should be notified on email at usyd.assistance.inbox@aon.com, so confirmation from the insurer can be obtained on whether travel would be covered. The policy may not respond if students travel against government advice.

Medical costs or medical evacuation costs

All necessary medical costs and/or medical evacuation costs related to COVID-19 or unrelated will be covered subject to policy terms and conditions. Travel should be approved by the University for it to be covered.

Medical costs and medical evacuation costs related to personal travel will only be covered if the personal travel falls within the duration of the approved course, exchange program or placement and any additional days that are deemed appropriate, which is maximum one week (7 days) before and after the approved course, program or placement. The policy will not cover any medical or medical evacuation costs related to travel which is solely for personal purpose and/or is personal travel incidental to business travel unless approved and authorized by the University.

Where medical costs are incurred in country of residence ie Australian citizen based in Australia, the policy will not pay any recoverable by the student from any other source. This includes Medicare and or any private health insurance. The student is required to submit their claim to Medicare, or similar body established by law in your country of residence, or their private health insurance in the first instance.

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