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EU cautions against rushing into bloc-wide pandemic insurance

Jun 8, 2021

LONDON (Reuters) -The European Union’s executive body urged caution on Tuesday in the face of calls for a public-private scheme for insuring companies against economic lockdowns in future pandemics.

“This is a very complex debate and needs time to mature,” John Berrigan, head of financial services at the European Commission, told an Insurance Europe event.

“I want to urge some caution here when we are looking at the feasibility of any type of action at the EU level.”

Berrigan said such a partnership scheme would require large financial backing from member states who have already spent huge sums in supporting the economy during lockdowns.

There is also a need to evaluate the insurance sector’s capability to participate in a public-private pandemic insurance scheme, he added.

Governments in Britain and the United States have also been discussing government-backed pandemic reinsurance schemes, but industry sources say progress is slow as countries continue to grapple with the current pandemic.

Berrigan said the European Commission and the bloc’s insurance regulator EIOPA will look at the need for simpler and clearer information on products, and what type of policies consumers will need post-COVID.

Oliver Baete, CEO of German insurer Allianz, told the event that insurers could not cover the cost of lockdowns on their own.

“We cannot insure a government-induced business interruption policy, it’s just not insurable,” he said.

“We need to protect our capital very carefully, otherwise the industry is very quickly bankrupt.”

(Reporting by Huw Jones and Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)