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Coronavirus Travel - Q&A 

New coronavirus cases in Italy and the Canary Islands have heightened unease around travel.

This is a fluid situation, with new developments by the hour - let alone day - so check with your airline, tour operator and DFA travel advisories before travelling.

Is it safe to travel to Italy?

Following a coronavirus outbreak, the Italian government has placed travel restrictions on the towns of Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda, Casalpusterlengo, Fombio, Maleo, Somaglia, Bertonico, Terranova dei Passerini, Castelgerundo and San Fiorano.

"We are advising citizens not to travel to these towns," the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) says. For the moment, it has not raised travel warnings about the rest of Italy - although, as well as the above towns in Lombardy and Veneto, there have been reported cases in Emilia Romagna, Sicily and Rome, among other places.

You can follow the DFA's Italy travel advice here or on Twitter here.

Is it safe to travel to Tenerife?
As of Tuesday afternoon, there has only been one confirmed case of coronavirus on the Canary Island, though there are reports of tourists in the H10 Costa Adeje Palace hotel being under lockdown.

Are flights operating as normal?
As of Tuesday afternoon, yes.

"Aer Lingus is continuing to monitor the situation and will liaise with the Department of Foreign Affairs, other Government Departments and relevant authorities as required,” it says.

Ryanair flights "are operating as normal", the airline says.

"We would like to reassure customers that our existing policies and procedures are in line with the guidance provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and EASA," it adds.

Both airlines are experiencing high volumes of passenger enquiries.

If I cancel my holiday, can I get a refund?

If the DFA issues a warning to "avoid non-essential travel" to an area (as it has done for China, for instance), or a "do not travel" alert, then you should be eligible for refunds or re-bookings.

If you haven't booked with a licensed and bonded tour operator (i.e. you have booked separate hotels and flights yourself), then you will need to check T&Cs, or rely on your travel insurance (see below) for refunds.

If you cancel because you feel uncomfortable about travelling to an area, and the DFA has not issued a warning about that area, then you are unlikely to be able to cancel or amend a booking without losing money.

If you are worried, your best bet at this stage is to contact your tour operator or airline and ask if you can change your plans - they are not obliged to, but Irish agents have a history of being helpful in stressful situations.

What will my travel insurance cover?

If the DFA advises against "non-essential travel" to a country or specific area you are travelling to and you have 'Travel Disruption' on your policy, you will be covered if you need to cancel or cut short a trip.

"Travel Disruption is an additional cover and must be purchased in advance of any public announcement prohibiting travel to the area you are travelling to," explains Ciaran Mulligan of Blue Insurance and MultiTrip.com.

Note that there is a moratorium (typically around seven days) on this additional cover from the date you add it. If you buy it today, for example, it will only kick in a week down the line.

Can my credit card help?

If you booked your flights or holiday using a card, you may be able to have pre-paid purchases reimbursed, but terms & conditions will apply.

As a rule, credit cards tend to offer more protections than debit cards.

What if my airline cancels the flight?

If your flight is cancelled for any reason, and regardless of when you are notified, your airline must offer you the choice between:

1) Re-routing as soon as possible, subject to availability, free of charge.

2) Re-routing at a later date.

3) A full refund.

You may also have certain assistance and compensation rights. See here for a full list, or check flightrights.ie.

Will travel insurance cover me for medical expenses if I contract coronavirus overseas?

"Providing the customer is not travelling to an area where the FCO/DFA have advised against “All but Essential travel”, then the customer would have cover for medical expenses if they were to travel and contract coronavirus while abroad," Ciaran Mulligan says.

"If the customer decides to travel against the advice of the FCO/DFA, there will be no cover in place as the policy would exclude any travel to an area where the DFA have advised against all but essential travel."

"In all instances, customers should contact their airline and/or booking agent if they have any concerns around the area they are travelling to, as if travel advice changes then it is likely that the airline or agent will offer to reschedule/refund their trip."

"All customers would need to go down this route before a claim will be considered."

What other precautions can I take?

Irish citizens can register on the DFA's citizens’ registration database (dfa.ie/travel) so it can contact them in case of urgency. You can also call the dedicated coronavirus help line on +353 (0)1 613 1733.