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The pair were due to celebrate milestone birthdays with flights to Italy and a cruise around southern Europe. But with Italy in lockdown following the deaths of more than 800 people, they were forced to cancel their "trip of a lifetime".
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The wife, who did not want to be named while the pair try to recoup more of the $28,000 trip, warned people that small-print clauses in their travel insurance might exclude trips cancelled because of government restrictions.
She said she had heard people on the radio believed they were covered.
"But it is actually the complete opposite — they are not covered."
Waiting for news on the trip they had saved hard for had been "all consuming" and made it difficult to focus at work before it was eventually called off, she said.
She has now been left disappointed and angry that she was not offered the choice to rearrange dates.
The Insurance Council of New Zealand urged people to speak to their insurer to check what they were covered for.
A media spokesman said some people who took out insurance before January might have cover, but that epidemics and pandemics were often exceptions.
However, some companies were offering restricted cover options.