March 17, 2020 / 6:30 PM / 5 months ago

Most British companies not insured for coronavirus closures: industry body

FILE PHOTO: The sun rises behind the Canary Wharf financial district in London, Britain, February 12, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Most companies in Britain don’t have insurance cover for closures caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the Association of British Insurers said on Tuesday.

The government recommended on Monday that people avoid restaurants, bars and clubs, and work from home where possible, but stopped short of ordering businesses to shut their doors.

The move drew criticism from the hospitality sector, which said businesses would be unable to claim under their insurance if there were not compelled to close.

But the ABI said many would be unable to claim anyway as standard business interruption cover purchased by most companies did not include closure due to an infectious disease or forced closure by authorities.

“Irrespective of whether or not the government orders closure of a business, the vast majority of firms won’t have purchased cover that will enable them to claim on their insurance to compensate for their business being closed by the coronavirus,” the trade body said.

“A small minority of typically larger firms might have purchased an extension to their cover for closure due to any infectious disease,” the ABI said. “An enforced closure could help them make the claim, but this will depend on the precise nature of the cover they have purchased so they should check with their insurer or broker.”

Britain’s finance minister Rishi Sunak told reporters on Tuesday that, for companies with a policy that covers pandemics, government action was sufficient to allow them to make insurance claims against their policy. He did not specify what he meant by government action.

Many insurers have said in recent weeks that they were not heavily exposed to the coronavirus because businesses do not automatically have insurance for disease epidemics, though some may buy extra cover.

However, insurers may have to make hefty payouts on trade credit insurance if companies go bust due to the global economic impact, or on cancellation insurance if the Tokyo Olympics are canceled or postponed.  

Reporting by Huw Jones and Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Pravin Char

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