After a 54-year-old woman from Macau, China, developed coronavirus symptoms onboard a cruise ship in the port of Civitavecchia in Italy, the 6,000 passengers have been prevented from disembarking.
The woman was placed into isolation overnight onboard the ship and three doctors and nurses were sent for to tend her, while samples from the woman and her husband were sent for testing. “As soon as the suspected case emerged, medical staff onboard immediately activated the necessary health procedures for cases of this kind,” said a spokesperson from the ship.
Initial tests from the ship have come back negative according to the Italian news agency Ansa.
Elsewhere, as travel to China begins to halt, global companies, ranging from hotels to banks, are feeling the economic effects of the Wuhan virus.
Starbucks Corp has been forced to close more than half of its coffee shops (around 2,000) in mainland China in an effort to stem the spread and protect its workers; while Volkswagen AG, Canadian insurer Sun Life Financial Inc and banks such as Credit Suisse Group and Morgan Stanley are requesting that staff work from home.
And after at least eight people were confirmed infected with the novel coronavirus in Hong Kong – and a further 100 in quarantine – Hong Kong’s Insurance Agency has announced that it will shut down its office for a five-day period between 29 January and 2 February to reduce the risk of the virus spreading among its workforce and visitors. This comes after the announcement that Hong Kong is to suspend its railways, bus and ferry services to and from the mainland, as well as reducing the number of flights to China by half.
While risk modelling firm RMS recently asserted that it was too early to estimate insured losses, it seems that insurers may well be some of the few that won’t be left reeling from financial loss; due to previous outbreaks of viruses such as SARS, Ebola and Zika, insurance policies often now have specific virus exclusions added to their basic coverage policies.
Underwriters assert that a standard event cancellation policy issued by firms in the 99-member Lloyd’s of London insurance market and elsewhere has a ‘communicable disease’ exclusion – so airlines and hotels are shouldering much of the financial losses themselves.
A spokesperson for Munich Re said: “The Asian hospitality industry is an obvious example of an industry already affected. For many lines of business … it is common market practice to have epidemic outbreak risk excluded.” Although the company did note that they offer a specific range of insurance products and policies for infectious diseases.
Elsewhere, the Insurance Association of China (IAC) has urged insurers to open 24-hour channels for providing advice and handling insurance claims related to the medical treatment of those afflicted with the Wuhan coronavirus to ensure timely and efficient claims handling.
The IAC added that particular priority should be given to those customers who have to pay out-of-pocket, allowing them to have their claims paid first and completing the required documentation later. Insurers should also proactively seek out policyholders through various channels, especially those known to be in regions more severely affected by the virus, in order to settle claims, the IAS said. By doing so, insurers would be simplifying the process and avoiding unnecessary physical contact.
The IAC also urges insurers to offer exclusive insurance products and services to medical and disease control personnel and their families, to provide them with coverage in the event they contract the coronavirus.