Being a notifiable disease means cases have to be reported to the relevant authorities by law

With the deadly Coronavirus on the march in the UK as well as many other countries, the government has finally agreed to make it a ’notifiable disease’, but how will this impact brokers and insurers?

The ABI said that ”standard business insurance policies are designed and priced to cover standard risks, not those that are very unlikely, such as the effects of Covid-19”.

It may be possible to buy consequential business interruption cover for notifiable diseases as an extention to a business policy, it added.

“More generally, all UK insurers are capitalised under Solvency II to withstand a wide range of severe events, including pandemics.”

”Businesses who are concerned about this should check the scope of their cover, and speak to their insurance adviser or broker,” the ABI added.

Being a notifiable disease is a formal statutory process for monitoring infectious diseases. This means that certain types of insurance policies won’t cover losses from it.

Mitigating the impact

Colin Dutkiewicz, head of life at Aon’s Reinsurance Solutions business, told Insurance Times that as the outbreak of Covid-19 continues to develop globally, the global life and health reinsurance industry recognises its critical role in mitigating the impact.

“Many insurers are evaluating and even expanding upon underwriting rules to ensure that policies remain effective and reinforce consumer confidence in insurance protection.

”Insurers in the strongest position are those that have already adequately identified the risk and protected themselves through reinsurance arrangements, hold adequate capital or have a well-diversified portfolio, he said.

“The heightened awareness of pandemic risk means insurers are also turning to more in-depth analytics – including evaluation of capital levels, diversification of risk and risk modelling – to manage their current and future exposure levels.

”While most life reinsurers believe that insured loss of life outside of China will be low and unlikely to trigger the reinsurance, we continue to monitor the situation.”

Travel insurance

Meanwhile, the ABI said that its member travel insurers ”are offering enhanced help and support to all their customers who may be understandably concerned about travelling overseas due to the Coronavirus”.

”The pledges include considering all valid claims for cancellation and travel disruption where compensation is not available elsewhere as quickly as possible, and, if necessary, ensuring that extra resources are available to offer prompt help and advice to customers,” it said.

The ABI’s assistant director, head of general insurance policy Mark Shepherd said travel insurers ”understand that this is a difficult time for people on or planning overseas trips.

”These customer pledges reinforce insurers’ determination to do everything possible to help their customers make claims where they can, and direct them to other sources that may be able to help.”

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation (WHO) has upgraded the global risk of the coronavirus outbreak to “very high” which is the top-level risk assessment after previously declaring it a “public health emergency” of international concern” back in January.

But WHO have said that there is still a chance of containing the virus if the transmission chain is broken – it has called for $675m to fund the fight against the disease.

It follows the government publishing its Coronavirus action plan yesterday, and many businesses facing the possibility of being closed to contain the virus.  

Four-part strategy

The government unveiled its four-part strategy: contain, delay, research and mitigate which was outlined by prime minister Boris Johnson at a press conference yesterday.

Coronavirus symptoms include a cough, high fever and in severe cases shortness of breath, while some might develop other complications as a result such as pneumonia.

But as it is a new virus, there is a lack of immunity to it and the potential of it spreading is high. 

The UK government’s four-part plan to respond to Covid-19:

  • Contain: detect early cases, follow up close contacts, and prevent the disease taking hold in this country for as long as is reasonably possible
  • Delay: slow the spread in this country, if it does take hold, lowering the peak impact and pushing it away from the winter season
  • Research: better understand the virus and the actions that will lessen its effect on the UK population; innovate responses including diagnostics, drugs and vaccines; use the evidence to inform the development of the most effective models of care
  • Mitigate: provide the best care possible for people who become ill, support hospitals to maintain essential services and ensure ongoing support for people ill in the community to minimise the overall impact of the disease on society, public services and on the economy.

Critical juncture

Although Emergency relief coordinator and under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Mark Lowcock said: “We do not yet see evidence that the virus is spreading freely. As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing it. But swift and robust action must be taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients, and trace contacts. We must act now to stop this virus from putting more lives at risk.

“This grant from the UN’s Emergency Fund will help countries with fragile health systems boost their detection and response operations. It has the potential to save the lives of millions of vulnerable people.”

The spread of the virus to countries with weaker health systems is one of its biggest concerns and is raising uncertainty about its impact. 

WHO said that this “critical juncture in the outbreak”. The focus is now on containing Covid-19 by strengthening surveillance, conducting thorough outbreak investigations to identify contacts and applying appropriate measures to prevent it being spread further.