The Wuhan virus or 2019 Novel Coronavirus has affected the world in many ways across various industries. The tourism industry has seen a drastic decline with travel being closed off in a few regions across China. Many countries are concerned about the spread of the Wuhan virus and have taken extreme measures to bar the Mainland Chinese from entering. The Coronavirus has since spread to more than 27,000 people and has claimed more than 500 lives. Currently, there is no confirmed vaccine for the virus, causing worldwide paranoia of contracting the flu.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared a global health emergency, and many countries across the globe are working to minimize and contain any outbreaks. There is a shortage of face masks and hand sanitizers as the public are stocking up goods to protect themselves. Authorities are advising the public that maintaining general hygiene (washing hands with soap and usage of face masks when outdoors) is paramount to avoid the infection. The spread of the Wuhan virus was exacerbated with the approach of the Lunar New Year where many people were travelling to celebrate the new year with their families.
Currently, any travel plans – whether it is abroad or domestic is discouraged until the situation is under control. In the wake of this new outbreak, insurance companies have now been hit with questions about the coverage and protection provided if the insured person contracts the virus. The Life Insurance Association of Malaysia (LIAM) and the Malaysian Takaful Association (MTA) have made a statement to the public stating that insurance companies will provide coverage for claims for the Wuhan virus despite the exclusion clause in most policies.
Generally, there is an exclusion clause for diseases that are communicable (which requires quarantine by law). It is also advisable to check with your insurance provider to confirm that the Novel Coronavirus is included in your coverage. In short, insurance coverage depends on the stage of contracting the virus, and the date your policy is bought.
The first stage is the cases where the patients are suspected of contracting the virus. These are people who are experiencing the symptoms of the disease. At this stage, since it is unconfirmed if the patient has the Novel Coronavirus, most insurance companies might not accept the claim unless there is a confirmed diagnosis.
The second stage is for confirmed cases. This is where most insurance providers have confirmed that they will be paying for claims that are confirmed to be caused by the Wuhan virus. Since the extension of coverage was only recently announced, most people are still unaware of the update.
The third stage is a more difficult stage to discuss as this pertains to terminal cases. For example, if a person who already has a pre-existing condition (i.e. heart disease, autoimmune conditions, etc.) and contracts the virus, then it is not guaranteed if the insurance company will pay for claims made. Cases from the third tier will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Hence, it is best to call your insurance provider or speak to your insurance agent/financial adviser.
The fourth and last stage are cases that have resulted in death. This solely depends on the policy or product that the deceased person has purchased. If the policy is “live” then the beneficiary should have no trouble claiming the funds from the life insurance.
Under normal circumstances, travel insurance covers emergency medical treatment when you fall ill during your trip. Or if the need arise, you can request for medical extraction or repatriation back to your home country.
However, exclusions apply when it comes to claims that are related to epidemics or pandemics. As the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a travel warning on the Novel Coronavirus outbreak, any policies purchased after the stipulated date by your insurer will be excluded from the coverage. To be safe and if possible, avoid any travel plans overseas for the time being.
There are daily updates on the spread, containment and possible vaccine for this virus. In the meantime, it is best to stay indoors, keep children away from public spaces, wash your hands regularly and use face masks. If you are experiencing any suspicious symptoms, minimize or avoid contact with people and seek medical help immediately.
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