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VIRUS OUTBREAK: REIGNITING TRAVEL

SIA's Covid cover for Singapore-HK flights may draw bubble flyers

Add-on coverage can include emergency evacuation and repatriation costs if the insured is diagnosed overseas

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Those travelling on SIA and departing from Singapore or Hong Kong can include travel insurance that covers certain situations arising from Covid-19.

Singapore

AIR travel bubble travellers deciding to fly with Singapore Airlines (SIA) or Cathay Pacific may want to consider one non-price distinction between the two: Covid-covered add-on travel insurance.

Under the bilateral travel arrangement, residents in Singapore and Hong Kong can from Nov 22 visit either city without quarantine or stay-home notice. Besides conditions like using only designated carriers - SIA and Cathay Pacific - travellers will also need to bear the full cost of any medical treatment overseas should they test positive for the novel coronavirus during the several rounds of mandatory testing.

A traveller may be concerned about the potential treatment costs, especially if one does not enjoy subsidised costs in foreign medical facilities and it is uncertain how fast one recovers to be well enough to make the trip back.

Those travelling on SIA and departing from either Singapore or Hong Kong can, for a fee, include travel insurance that covers certain situations arising from Covid-19 when booking a flight or add on to an existing itinerary.

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Coverage differs: for one-way trips, the only benefit available is travel cancellation and postponement, according to the website of AIG that underwrites the insurance.

For a round trip departing from Singapore, coverage includes:

  • up to S$350,000 for medical costs, and emergency medical evacuation and repatriation expenses incurred during the trip if the insured is diagnosed overseas;
  • travel cancellation up to 60 days before departure for non-refundable travel and accommodation expenses if the insured or relative contracts the coronavirus before the departure date; and
  • travel curtailment for non-refundable trip costs and additional travel expenses to return to the insured's country of residence if the insured or relative gets infected.

Notably, what it doesn't cover includes trip cancellation or postponement resulting solely from border closures, quarantine or other government orders, advisories, regulations or directives.

The travel bubble will be suspended for two weeks if the seven-day moving average of the daily number of unlinked novel coronavirus cases is more than five in either Hong Kong or Singapore.

In contrast, the add-on insurance available through Cathay Pacific and underwritten by Chubb Insurance Singapore expressly states that it continues to exclude all claims directly or indirectly arising from the disease.

The difference in Covid-coverage may be worth the traveller's consideration, given that most, if not all, standalone travel insurance products available in Singapore exclude claims connected to the virus or pandemic.

SIA's insurance partner AIG also offers travel insurance on its website but it excludes claims that arise from the coronavirus if the policy was issued after late January.

AXA Insurance, which offers Covid-covered travel insurance for Scoot passengers on flights departing Singapore, is looking to make such coverage to all travellers regardless of the airline they fly with, the insurer's managing director of retail and health, Julien Callard, said.

Annie Chua, vice-president and head of personal lines at Income told The Business Times that the insurer is looking to make available as soon as possible suitable coverage for the coronavirus as part of its travel insurance offerings.

Great Eastern said it is monitoring the situation and the gradual lifting of travel restrictions, when asked if it had changed its position on not covering the novel coronavirus for general international travel or travelling to Hong Kong.

"It is too early for us to comment on the changes to travel insurance coverage at this stage," the spokesperson said.

She also cited the change in Singapore government's policy that now allows Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term pass holders who return from their overseas travel to access state subsidies and medical insurance coverage such as MediShield Life to pay for hospitalisation bills if infected with the coronavirus within 14 days of their return to Singapore.

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