In July, Emirates became the world’s first airline to offer free COVID-19 insurance to all passengers, regardless of ticket class.
This development was quickly picked up by numerous news outlets, with some heralding it as the impetus for leisure travel to resume.
Sorry to be a party pooper, but no. Although Emirates’ COVID-19 insurance could prove useful for someone who has no choice but to travel, it’s certainly not carte blanche for a Singapore resident to jet off on a holiday.
That’s primarily because you’ll receive no financial assistance upon returning to Singapore, and will have to bear the costs of COVID-19 tests, accomodation to serve your Stay-at-Home Notice (SHN), and all other medical expenses should you test positive.
How does Emirates’ COVID-19 insurance work?
Passengers who travel with Emirates between 23 July and 31 October 2020 will be covered by its complimentary COVID-19 insurance. No application is required, and coverage is automatically effective.
Should you be diagnosed with COVID-19 while overseas, you will be entitled to the following assistance with medical and hospital costs, quarantine accommodation and repatriation:
- Up to €150,000 of COVID-19 health expenses
- €100 per day for quarantine costs, for up to 14 days
- Funeral costs of up to €1,500
- Repatriation to return to country of residence, at actual costs
This coverage is available for up to 31 days after the first flown flight of your journey, and applies to both revenue and award tickets — so long as the ticket was bought or redeemed from Emirates or a travel agent.
Underwriting is provided by NEXtCARE Claims Management LLC, an Allianz Partners entity.
If you’re interested, the full terms and conditions of this insurance policy can be found here.
Does this mean that I can travel now?
Not exactly. While this coverage would certainly be useful if you test positive for COVID-19 overseas, it doesn’t provide any assistance when you return to Singapore.
The terms and conditions are very clear that assistance ends on return to your ‘country of residence’, which means that once you step foot in Singapore, you’re responsible for the cost of your 14-day SHN ($2,000) and COVID-19 testing (up to $200).
Should you subsequently test positive for COVID-19 during your SHN, you’ll be required to bear the costs of your medical treatment in Singapore. Keep in mind, the government has taken a very dim view on traveling against the prevailing advisory. As stated by the Ministry of Health:
Any Singapore resident or Long Term Pass holder who leaves Singapore from 27 March 2020, in disregard of the prevailing travel advisories, will be charged at unsubsidised rates for their inpatient stay at public hospitals, if they are admitted for suspected COVID-19 and have onset of symptoms within 14 days of returning to Singapore. Singapore residents will also not be able to claim from MediShield Life or Integrated Shield Plans for these treatments at public and private hospitals.
In other words, this would be a double-whammy for you. Not only will Emirates’ COVID-19 insurance not apply, but you also won’t be able to claim the costs from your personal health insurance.
Even if you’re overseas, it’s important to note that you’re still responsible for covering the cost of your own COVID-19 testing, as Emirates’ policy kicks in only upon diagnosis.
If a positive test result is received, you need to inform the coverage provider as soon as possible, because all expenses must be pre-approved and paid for directly by the coverage provider. In a time-sensitive situation, this may not always be possible, and you’ll be on the hook for any out-of-pocket costs you incur.
What good is this policy then?
While it doesn’t give you the green light for non-essential travel, it’s still useful for anyone with essential travel needs during this period. Remember: travel insurance will not cover your COVID-19 expenses, seeing as how this is now a known event. Emirates’ policy, therefore, is your only line of defence should you contract COVID-19 while overseas, and provides some valuable peace of mind.
Leisure travel can only realistically return when the government changes its stance on the mandatory SHN and non-subsidized treatment costs. That, in turn, will only realistically happen once travel bubbles are created, or when a vaccine is found.
Needless to say, the Singapore government is taking COVID-19 very seriously especially since there are still community cases reported on a daily basis. Emirates’ policy, useful though it may be, should therefore not be seen as an enticement to go galavanting overseas.
I understand there’s a lot of pent up demand for leisure travel, but we’ll just have to sit tight for the moment. Even though there’s a faint chance we may see reciprocal leisure travel arrangements materialise later this year, a 2021 timeline is much more realistic.
There’s peace of mind in the knowledge that you are covered in case of any mishaps with the FWD Personal Accident and Infectious Disease Coverage plan. It comes with one of the highest death and total disability payout for personal accidents plus 24 infectious disease causes (including COVID-19) for an affordable $98 a year. That’s less than $0.30 a day!
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