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Is COVID-19 a cause or the cause?

In 2019, Mele booked a trip to Japan, and took out a travel insurance policy. She was due to fly in June 2020. However, in April 2020, Japan closed its borders due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic. Shortly afterwards, Mele’s airline contacted her, to say her flights had been cancelled.

Mele lodged a claim with her travel insurer, but the insurer declined her claim. The insurer said that Mele’s policy excluded cover for any claim related to a government interfering with her travel. They said that Japan’s government closing its borders was a key cause of Mele’s claim, so the claim was not covered.



Mele disagreed with the insurer’s decision. She accepted that the border closures were a part of the series of events which led to her claim, but the border closures were not the underlying cause.

Mele said her trip had been cancelled primarily because of COVID-19. Her policy did not contain any exclusion for pandemics, so she said her claim should be covered.

Mele complained to FSCL.



After reviewing Mele’s complaint, we found that her insurer was entitled to decline her claim.

There was a chain of events which led to Mele cancelling her claim: COVID-19 led to the Japanese government implementing border closures, which led to the airline cancelling her flights. And Mele’s insurance policy excluded any claims related directly or indirectly to a government interfering with her travel. This meant that, if any part of the chain related to government interference, then the insurer would be entitled to decline the claim.

We agreed that COVID-19 was the dominant cause of the claim, but that did not matter. Because the border closures were a part of the chain of causation, the exclusion applied, and the insurer was entitled to decline her claim.



We found that the insurer was entitled to decline Mele’s claim, and recommended she discontinue her complaint. Mele accepted our recommendation.


Insights for consumers

An insurance claim will often arise from a series of events, one leading to another. If any one of the causes falls under an exclusion clause in the policy, then that will usually mean the claim can be declined. This is worth considering when you are reading through your insurance policy, particularly the exclusions, and deciding whether the cover is right for you.