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Industry ramps up response to first pandemic catastrophe

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The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has declared the coronavirus pandemic a catastrophe, escalating the industry’s response to the worsening spread of the COVID-19 respiratory illness in the country.

It is the first time a pandemic has been designated an insurance catastrophe.

ICA protocols require that after a catastrophe declaration additional resources are made available to speed up insurance claims processing. A taskforce must also be set up to oversee the process.

“That taskforce is made up of members or representatives from Insurance Council membership, and is there to help identify and then resolve any issues that might arise,” spokesman Campbell Fuller told

He says the taskforce aims also to “ensure that the information provided to governments and other important stakeholders is accurate and timely. That includes collecting and collating data across the industry.”

ICA Head of Risk and Operations Karl Sullivan says in a LinkedIn post the pandemic taskforce will focus on travel insurance and business interruption covers.

The council says the extent of claims and losses are unknown at this point.

In 2005/2006, the global insurance industry started to introduce general exclusions for business interruption-related losses linked to quarantinable diseases.

The coronavirus outbreak became a known event around January 20-31 for most travel insurers.

Major public events around the country have since been cancelled or postponed indefinitely after the Morrison Government announced a ban non-essential mass gatherings of more than 500 people.

Victoria this morning declared a four-week state of emergency to counter the spread of the virus, and the ACT declared a public health emergency.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases nationally has increased to nearly 300 by this morning.

See Analysis.