I wasn’t intending to write about Emirates’ COVID-19 insurance at first, but having seen it widely shared and reported without proper context, I figure it’s important to highlight a few things.
tl;dr: Emirates’ COVID-19 insurance is not carte blanche for Singapore residents to jet off on a holiday against prevailing government advice. It will not cover the cost of your mandatory SHN upon returning to Singapore, nor will it cover your medical bills in Singapore should you test positive upon return.
The problem is that so many media outlets have basically parroted the press release, without drilling down into the fine print. This runs the risk of making people think that non-essential travel is a-ok, because Emirates has their back.
How does Emirates’ COVID-19 insurance work?
About a week ago, Emirates became the world’s first airline to offer COVID-19 insurance for all passengers, regardless of cabin.
This applies to passengers with travel dates between 23 July and 31 October 2020. Registration is not required, and the following coverage is provided:
- 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 costs to return to country of residence
The coverage period lasts up to 31 days after the first flown flight of your journey. It applies both to revenue and award tickets, so long as the ticket was bought/redeemed from Emirates or a travel agent.
|⚠️ Watch out for tickets issued by partner airlines for Emirates travel|
|If you purchased your ticket from another airline, you will not be covered, even if one or more flights are operated by Emirates. Similarly, if you redeem partner program miles (e.g Qantas) for Emirates award seats, you won’t be covered (because the ticket will be issued by the partner, not Emirates).|
The full T&C of the coverage can be found here.
Sounds good. What’s the catch?
While this coverage would certainly be useful if you test positive for COVID-19 while overseas, it does not provide any help on return to Singapore.
As stated in Emirates’ FAQs:
|18. Does it cover residents returning to their home country?|
The assistance is valid for 31 days from the first flown flight of your journey from the date of departure. It ends when you return to your country of residence.
Or to put it more plainly:
| 6. Am I covered for any assistance within my country of residence?|
So in a scenario where you return to Singapore, do your 14-day SHN and subsequently test positive, you won’t be able to claim anything from the policy. It doesn’t matter that you contracted the disease while overseas; all that matters is where you are at the time you test positive. If you’re within your country of residence, assistance does not apply.
Even if you’re overseas, it’s important to note the following:
- You’re still responsible for covering the cost of COVID-19 testing
- The coverage provider must be informed “as soon as possible” in the event of a positive COVID-19 test
- All expenses must be pre-approved and directly paid for by the coverage provider. You will not be reimbursed for any out-of-pocket costs
Don’t get me wrong- if I had to travel overseas for essential reasons, I’d be glad to have this protection. But it isn’t a green light for non-essential travel, especially given the Singapore government’s stance.
What’s the Singapore government’s stance?
As of today, the Singapore government’s advisory against all travel abroad still holds.
To show they’re not kidding, they’ve further imposed the following policies:
- Any inbound/outbound travellers will be required to pay for their COVID-19 tests (Up to S$200)
- All inbound travellers to Singapore will bear the costs of their 14-day SHN at a dedicated SHN facility (S$2,000)
- 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
- Any work pass holder or his/her dependant who leaves Singapore from 27 March 2020 will be deprioritised for entry approval and could see significant delays before they are allowed to return to Singapore if they persist in travelling abroad and return infected.
So a returning Singapore resident would have to pay for his/her COVID-19 tests, the cost of the SHN facility, and should they fall ill with COVID-19 within 14 days of returning, the full costs of their medical treatment. Emirates’ policy will cover none of these.
Emirates’ COVID-19 insurance is a welcome feature for those with essential travel needs right now. However, it will not do you an ounce of good once you step back on Singapore soil.
So if a friend sends you a link to one of the many stories about this, do them a favor and break down the fine print for them. As much as I’d love to hop on a flight to a beach somewhere, Lawrence Wong has made it pretty clear that leisure travel is off the cards for 2020.
But hey, a “Singapoliday” could be fun too.