Coronavirus: Kiwis urged to read insurance fine-print amid travel chaos

As the coronavirus crisis causes mayhem for travellers around the world, Kiwis are being urged to read the fine-print on their travel insurance to see if they are covered for COVID-19-related issues.

In general, the sheer size and unpredictability of the COVID-19 outbreak meant that any problems encountered as a result of the virus would not be covered, says Leah McNeil, from the Insurance Council of New Zealand.

Pandemics, like wars, are generally excluded from insurance policies because of the fact their risk can't be quantified, she said.

"They are of a magnitude that is too big in order to be able to scale it and therefore to be able to price it - and that's why they are generally exclusions in all insurance products," McNeil told The AM Show on Thursday.

She said two members of the Insurance Council had acted on the exclusions already.

"So if you did have cover in place, your cover would be relatively limited," McNeil said.

However, people who bought their insurance before the outbreak began may be ok, she said.

"If you had bought travel insurance before it was a known event and there wasn't this exclusion - and there are a couple of policies out there where this is the case - then you'd be lucky, you'd have cover in place."

Anyone buying insurance policies now would almost certainly not be covered for COVID-19, McNeil said.

"Make sure you understand your policy, ask lots of questions. And at the moment we advise you just call your insurer. If you have insurance in place you may have cover and you just need to ask those questions of your insurer."

On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters urged all Kiwis abroad to return home immediately as commercial flights become increasingly sparse and Governments around the world implement tougher travel restrictions.