Holidaymakers are being warned of the risks of travelling to countries against Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice, even if they have specialist travel insurance.
In the past few weeks, several brokers have been promoting insurance policies to cover holidays in destinations where the FCO is advising against all non-essential travel.
These insurance policies were initially designed to cover travel to remote areas and conflict zones. While they were available to adventure travellers, they were more usually taken out to protect contract workers, humanitarian workers and journalists.
However, they are now being promoted to holidaymakers wanting to travel to mainstream holiday destinations such as Spain, France and Croatia, which are subject to UK government travel restrictions due to high rates of Covid-19.
Providers include Battleface (available through Holiday Extras), which includes cover for medical treatment for coronavirus.
But insurance portal Travel Insurance Explained is claiming that if British holidaymakers catch the virus abroad, they might be left untreated, even with travel insurance.
Head of client engagement Fiona Macrae said: “If you need medical treatment in a country that is already suffering pressures on its health care system, non-nationals will not be seen as a priority and this could have detrimental consequences to your health should you require emergency medical treatment.”
While she admitted she has no case studies of countries that have said they will prioritise the treatment of their own nationals over British tourists, Fiona said it ‘is a problem that might very well occur, particularly if there is a surge of Covid-19 cases’.
She added: “If the hospitals in countries where the Covid-19 infection rate is high are overwhelmed with nationals receiving treatment, then tourists could struggle to be seen. Although, not a Government directive, in our experience, we have seen the health of nationals being prioritised over those of a tourist.
“We’re also hearing that some private facilities are insisting on tourists paying for a £50 Covid-19 test before they provide any treatment. And if the test comes back positive, they won’t treat you.”
She did not state which facilities in which countries have implemented this measure.
Further problems with ‘war zone’ travel insurance, according to Fiona, is the lack of cover if clients need to cancel as a result of catching Covid-19 before their holiday, also there is no medical treatment for Covid for clients aged 60 and above, and people with pre-existing medical conditions are excluded, as are people over 75.
“The above examples are just a few of the limitations to these types of policies, there are others, therefore we would strongly urge anyone buying this type of policy to read the wordings very carefully to ensure it meets your personal requirements and be sure that you’re happy with any potential risks associated with going against the FCO’s advice,” said Fiona.
She added that one of the reasons the FCO is warning against travel to specific destinations is due to the risk that the government does not have enough resources in that particular country to support a large number of UK nationals should it go into lockdown and hotels are closed and flights cancelled.
“In fact, the FCO has made it clear it will not offer support of alternative transport or accommodation in countries it has advised people to avoid. So, you could end up stranded in a country without any means (or help) of getting home,” she added.