Further COVID-19-related travel disruption, such as government-enforced lockdowns, may not be covered by insurance

A quarantine-free travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia is set to begin on 19 April. 

The trans-Tasman travel bubble will end the year-long period where travel between the two countries was highly restricted. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said she made the change after determining the risk from Australia was low.

“Our team’s success in managing COVID-19 and keeping it out over the past 12 months now opens up the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and resume Trans-Tasman travel,” Ardern told the media in a news conference.

However, further COVID-19-related travel disruptions within the bubble, such as government-enforced lockdowns or border closures, may not be covered by insurance. 

“Insurers have constantly looked at ways to support their customers for the day the travel bubble becomes a possibility, introducing tailored policies that provide cover for a range of Covid-19 related claims,” said Tim Grafton, chief executive of the Insurance Council of New Zealand. 

“In addition to the normal travel insurance cover, some policies may include cover for specific COVID-19 claims such as cancellation costs if you contract COVID-19 and can’t travel, costs to return home if a relative gets sick with COVID-19 or costs if you get sick with COVID-19 and need to quarantine while overseas. Some also cover reasonable costs if the person you are supposed to stay with gets COVID-19 and you need to find alternative accommodation.”

“However, border closures imposed by a government are not covered by any insurer as it is simply not possible to develop a product that accounts for the uncertainty and the level of risk this presents,” he added.

“Insurers and customers need certainty of the exact dates and times borders open or close so that they know when cover is available and when it is not.”

The bubble will implement a traffic-lights system, containing conditions governing whether quarantine-free travel can be continued, paused or suspended.

According to the New Zealand government’s COVID-19 website, if a COVID-19 case is linked to the border, meaning low risk of further transmission, then travel will be allowed to continue. If a case is from an unknown source, a short-term lockdown will be imposed and flights will be paused for up to 72 hours. However, if there are multiple cases of unknown source, longer lockdowns will be imposed.