It has been approximately two years since the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. By the end of March of 2020, the United States was declared to be in a state of emergency, and virtually every industry in the world was impacted in some way. Obviously, some industries were more affected than others, but it could easily be argued that the travel industry felt the ramifications of the worldwide pandemic more than any other. As many countries put heavy travel restrictions in place, others closed their borders completely. Within the United States, virtually every state implemented some form of a stay-at-home order that restricted the amount of mobility that American citizens had within our own nation.
While a vaccine was created for the original COVID-19 virus, there has now been more than one notable mutation. Just as scientists were getting a handle on the Delta variant of the virus, there are now reports of a new variation which has been labeled the Omicron variant.
If you have travel plans already in place or are considering making travel plans for the upcoming holidays or for 2022, it’s crucial that you monitor the Omicron variant and the way that it may impact your travel plans. Now that we are facing no fewer than three strains of the virus (the original, Delta, and Omicron), having travel insurance is more important than ever before.
What We Know About the Omicron Variant
The World Health Organization, also referred to as the WHO, classified the newly discovered Omicron variant a “variant of concern” on November 26, 2021. Immediately, governments around the world began looking for ways to protect their citizens from this most recent version of the COVID-19 pandemic that left millions around the world hospitalized or dead. Based on the information that we currently have, albeit limited information, it seems as though the Omicron variant has originated in southern Africa. With that in mind, many world leaders have already placed limited travel restrictions in place, moving to close their borders to people from those southern African nations, and forbidding their citizens from returning home should they choose to visit southern Africa.
However, according to reports, the Omicron variant is not limited to southern Africa. Instead, there have been reports of positive cases on multiple continents, including positives in Germany, Israel, Italy, Hong Kong and even Canada. Obviously, the positive cases in Canada provide a bit of alarming news for Americans, even those who aren’t travelers. For Americans who are considering traveling in the near future or those who already have travel plans in place, it is important to consider travel insurance to mitigate financial risks before or during an upcoming trip.
How Nations are Responding
As of right now, the United States has not put any major travel restrictions in place. However, it’s important to note that everything is still very fluid regarding this newest variant. Even though the US has not yet made any significant changes to current travel policies, some other nations have.
Japan is taking a much stricter approach to these recent developments. As of November 30, 2021, Japan is closing its borders to anyone who is not a citizen of the nation, including people visiting family and international students.
Most nations are still allowing citizens and permanent residents who have been in southern Africa to return home. However, as we learned with the earliest stages of the pandemic, there is no way to know how long those policies will remain in place.
Do I Need Travel Insurance?
If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that travel insurance is always a wise investment. Travelers who are initially resistant to purchasing a travel insurance plan generally cite the unlikelihood that they will need to utilize the benefits associated with their policy. However, in the same way that you ideally won’t use vehicle insurance, homeowners’ insurance, or any number of other insurance policies that you purchase, travel insurance is generally worth the cost. If you don’t need it, the cost is minimal. However, if you do have to use your insurance policy, the amount of money that you’ll save makes the policy well worth it.
How Does My Policy Relate to COVID-19?
While travel insurance has always been an option for travelers, many people began looking into purchasing it for the first time at the onset of the pandemic. Reputable travel insurance companies such as TravelInsurance.com quickly responded to the pandemic in its infancy and began offering policies that made specific provisions for the COVID-19 pandemic. Those provisions are still in place, and certainly apply to the new developments that pertain to the travel industry and the Omicron variant. Most plans will cover policy holders if they contract COVID-19 prior to or during their trip. When quoting and buying on TravelInsurance.com, please click on the “COVID-19 FAQs” link to read how each specific plan covers COVID-19.
The only thing more frustrating than having to cancel a highly anticipated trip is having to cancel that highly anticipated trip at the last minute, when the window for receiving refunds has closed. Having travel insurance as we enter into another wave of unknowns is a wise investment. First of all, the United States could pass legislation at any time that limits travel into or out of the country. Additionally, should Omicron cases start showing up in the United States, state leaders could once again enact the stay-at-home orders that would limit or shut down domestic travel. Finally, should you or someone in your travel party contract any variation of the COVID-19 virus, including the Omicron variant, you could be required to cancel your trip at the last minute and most plans with trip cancellation coverage will cover this scenario.
Whether you’re forced to cancel because of a positive COVID-19 test, or a health-related emergency that requires you to stay at home, travel insurance plans can protect you against nonrefundable losses associated with your trip. Keep in mind that most plans will cover you if you contract COVID-19 prior to or during your trip, but they won’t provide coverage for fears or worries about traveling or government shutdowns and restrictions. Savvy travelers will seek out a Cancel For Any Reason plan to cover those scenarios.
Issues During Your Trip
In the event that you contract the Omicron variant during your trip, most domestic health insurance plans won’t cover medical expenses accrued in another country. However, travel insurance can be used to cover medical bills that come from hospitals in a foreign country, or hospitals that are out of your insurance’s network during a domestic trip. Obviously, no one wants to think about the worst-case scenario, but that’s exactly what travel insurance is for. In the event that you suffered serious illness from the Delta or Omicron variant or any other illness or accident and needed to be evacuated from the country you are visiting, there are policies that cover those emergency evacuations in addition to emergency medical costs in non-evacuation scenarios. Additionally, there are features that you can add to a policy that would cover the cost of returning your body to the United States in the event of your tragic passing during your trip.
Additionally, if travel restrictions (which can only be covered with a Cancel For Any Reason upgrade) or a family emergency back home put you in a position to need to leave your trip before your scheduled departure, you would find yourself facing significant nonrefundable costs. That’s another reason that travel insurance is such a wise investment.
Ultimately, there are several unknowns about the Omicron variant. However, many people started making travel plans in the last several months, as it seemed like the COVID-19 vaccine options and other advances were allowing us to return to something that resembled life before the pandemic. However, all of that could change with little to no notice just like it did before. With so much unknown about the Omicron variant, having travel insurance can protect you against losing nonrefundable costs should you cancel your trip before your departure date, incur emergency medical treatment costs abroad or if you must cut your trip short post-departure for a covered reason under the policy terms and conditions. Today, more than ever, travel insurance is a necessary investment.
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