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South Korea is a popular holiday destination among Singaporeans and with the recent MERS disease outbreak, some are wondering if they should go ahead with their travel plans that have been pre-paid. While latest news saw Singapore Airlines waiving their cancellation fees for flights to Seoul, not all travellers are lucky to book with a socially responsible airline.


If you are considering to go ahead with your trip, you might want to weigh out your risk and dig deeper into the details of your travel insurance to see if you are eligible for any reimbursements.


What is the latest update on MERS?


Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a respiratory disease. Those who have lived through the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) period, which killed hundreds of people when it appeared in Asia in 2003, would see some similarities between the two outbreaks. Compared to SARS, the MERS virus is considered to be more deadly but less contagious.


As of June 10, South Korea's Health Ministry reported 9 fatalities so far and a total of 108 MERS cases.


Does my travel insurance cover trip cancellations due to MERS?


For those who bought travel insurance before the announcement of the outbreak of MERS, you have a chance of claiming some reimbursements, depending on what your insurer covers. Unfortunately, for those who did not get their insurance before the World Health Organisation's (WHO) warning, you will not be eligible for any potential claims.


For those who have ongoing travel insurance, it is important to read through your policy to ascertain if you can reclaim any paid-up fees:


  1. Pre-departure benefit – Most trip cancellation clauses due to a disease outbreak only take effect if there is an official travel advisory issued from the World Health Organisation (WHO). From the latest update, the WHO has announced on its website that it “does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions.” This means that if you choose to cancel your trip for own safety, you will most likely not be eligible for reimbursements, unless you happen to fly with SIA!
  2. Trip Disruption from illness – Let's say you decide to go ahead with your trip anyway and you fall sick during the trip. If the hospital decides to quarantine you for safety reasons, you can expect to be reimbursed for the medical costs of hospital stay and services. Your insurer will also likely reimburse you for the accommodation costs you have paid upfront which you are unable to get a refund. 


Take note of the steps you need to make a claim:

  • When in travel-related trouble, always call the insurance company's hotline first to seek help and advice.

  • Lodge a police report to get an official report statement and take note of details of your circumstance – time and date, what happened, and keep the receipts of any payments you make that you want to be reimbursed for.

  • Fill out a claim form from your insurer and prepare all the original receipts and other documentary proof.