Can I get insurance against the Coronavirus?
Fear of 2019-nCoV - the Coronavirus – is gradually spreading across the globe as infections and deaths continue to increase in number and territory. The toll currently stands at over 2850 deaths and over 80 000 reported cases across the globe. And those are the cases that we know of.
South Africa has escaped thus far, with not one confirmed case of Coronavirus yet – although the country held its breath for a few hours on 6 February when two suspected cases of 2019-nCoV surfaced in KwaZulu-Natal, only to be cleared.
Still, the climbing death toll and new suspicions that the virus could spread through anything from water droplets to building pipes has plenty of people worrying: ‘what would happen if I were to contract the Coronavirus?’
The financial dangers of a Coronavirus attack
Life insurance is the obvious answer to the financial ravages of an epidemic – and a safe bet, too.
“As a rule of thumb your policy should pay out if you pass away from something like the Coronavirus in your home country,” says CEO of MiWayLife insurance Craig Baker. “You need to check for things like geographies that may be excluded by your life insurance policy and the type of work that you do, if you for example have an occupation that could put you at high risk for something like the Coronavirus.”
… However, your life may not be the primary financial casualty of something like the Coronavirus.
“With an epidemic like Coronavirus, which is incredibly contagious but actually has a lower mortality rate than SARS or Avian Flu, the biggest risk is loss of income,” says Baker. “Quarantine could be needed, but no clear rules exist in South Africa as to how long a person must be isolated if they were to contract the virus. With other more common contagious infections, such as Tuberculosis, the general standard is four weeks or more. So, not being able to work for a month or more could be devastating to a person’s finances without income protection.” Of course, getting insurance once you have contracted something like this is pretty much out of the question, so upfront protection is critical in cases like this.
What about travel insurance?
This is where things get tricky. While a comprehensive life insurance policy guards against dread diseases, loss of income in certain situations and sudden death, travel insurance has its own set of rules.
Most people who travel frequently know that they are automatically covered with travel insurance in their airfare, but few actually know what this covers. “Travel insurance is a basic insurance against unexpected misfortune when not in your home nation – but travelling to an area known to be affected by the Coronavirus, for example China, would not necessarily be covered. It might not be considered ‘unforeseen’ if you were to contract a virus that area is in the headlines for having,” says Baker. Having said that, given the seriousness of an outbreak like the Coronavirus, life insurers may even place certain territories on a no go list where you cover could be impacted should you elect to travel to that location.
Forewarned is better than forearmed
The industry has for some time been talking about the eventual emergence of a “Super Bug” that will have the capacity to spread and kill at rates not previously seen. We have had glimpses of this through MERS, SARS and now the Coronavirus. The world has become a very small place indeed with international travel being ubiquitous and some countries in fact surviving on tourism as a major revenue generator.
Additionally, the healthcare facilities in many of these locations are not geared to deal with medical requirements of this nature at scale.
While most people would consider getting insurance specifically against Coronavirus in a country with zero infections a little paranoid, the latest outbreak highlights the need for cover when the unexpected strikes. “Life insurance should provide you with the peace of mind that you are covered in the event of something unforeseen affecting you. The Coronavirus simply introduces a new category of risk that we need to consider when dealing with our life insurance, but ultimately regardless of the reasons for you passing on, that’s what it’s there for,” concludes Baker. “Just ensure that you are comprehensively covered.”