(Reuters) – Wynand du Toit's safari camp in South Africa's Pilanesberg National Park is abandoned, its tents torn open by baboons and its survival in the balance after his insurer rejected his COVID-19 claim.  In the United States, restaurant owner Miami Debayle has laid off two-thirds of its staff and is desperate for an insurance payment that could help prevent the prospect of closure.
Meanwhile, Munich's beer garden manager Christian Vogler is on his way to the German courts in an attempt to wrestle about 1 million euros ($ 1.2 million) from his insurance company.
Companies around the world, hoarded by lockdowns, face often existential showdowns with insurance companies unwilling to pay for business insurance companies say many such policies exclude pandemics, require physical damage to premises or do not apply to the widespread lockdowns seen globally. Against the background of pressure from regulators, increased paint damage and a wave of lawsuits, they warn that the payout could lower their industry.
In some countries, including South Africa, France and Germany, insurance companies are now opening their checkbooks. But for many customers, these settlements or payments ex-gratia ̵
Mr. Du Toit's installment payment amounted to 11% of his claim of approximately 3 million rand ($ 172,000) and was spent within a few hours. A larger payout can lead to a lawsuit being filed in court against the insurer of another company, which may take some time to resolve.
His company, including three tent safari camps and 19 staff, were thrown a lifeline when South Africa opened provincial borders for all travel on Tuesday.
However, with around 2 million rand in debts still to be paid, demanding insecurity and an ongoing ban on international tourism, which accounts for 70% of pre-pandemic revenues, it will be difficult to stay afloat without full payment.
"Make no mistake, I'm grateful," said Mr. du Toit, but added that he needs his claim in full.
"It will literally wipe out the entire last five months of debt," he said of a full payment. "It will be a heavy burden to try to survive with it."
Mr du Toit's insurer, Santam, declined to comment.
South African insurance companies claim that their policies were designed to cover closures after an outbreak to allow for restrictive measures such as deep washing, but not national lockdowns.
"The interim measures are in place to help policyholders as much as individual insurers can, pending the legal process," said Viviene Pearson, head of the South African Insurance Association.
In France, some cooperative banks and mutual insurance companies have offered small businesses a "stimulus bonus" or "health crisis allowance", ex-gratia payments of in some cases up to 20,000 euros.
The German Land. Bavaria has negotiated a settlement offer that would make insurers pay 15 % of companies' receivables for up to 30 days of discontinued operations. Allianz, one of the country's largest insurance companies, says it will expand its offering to all German customers.
But many hotel owners and restaurants have ignored the proposal.
Mr. Vogler, who runs one of the largest beer gardens in Munich, instead sues his insurance company, dismissing the settlement offer as a "joke."
His insurance company, Bayerische Versicherungskammer, refused to comment on his case but said more than 80% of customers in the restaurant and hotel industry had agreed to the offer.
Some insurance companies have not yet paid. Companies in the UK and Australia have not left anything out pending the outcome of legal test cases aimed at clarifying whether insurers are liable.
The possibility of a similar test case in South Africa is being considered.
U.S. Insurance companies have also resisted, pushing companies to take them to court.
One such complainant is Mr. Debayle, owner of two Nicaraguan restaurants in Miami, which is still making operating losses.
"We have enough liquidity to continue through 2020, but if the situation goes well into 2021, I could see permanent closure as a real possibility."
U.S. judges have already in some cases ruled in favor of insurance companies.
Globally, insurers say they pay for legitimate claims, but their policies were not designed to cover the pandemic's catastrophic fallout.
UBS has estimated that the industry would could be on the hook for losses of non-US business interruptions totaling $ 7 billion and $ 22 billion.
But in the second quarter, the coronavirus gave a relatively modest $ 2.5 billion blow to five insurance companies with major US operations.
The virus has led many insurance companies to withdraw from writing new coverage, to strengthen conditions and increase premiums. Some have removed pandemics from their coverage. and required State support for such policies in the future.
In South Africa, Mr. To Toit's staff, including 21-year-old Thomas Mthisi, are doing their maintenance work as impalas graze in parking lots. Mr Mthisi now plans to return to work in October, after months of relying on food parcels from his church to help feed his family.
Now is not the time for insurers to abandon customers who have dutifully paid their premiums for several years, he said.
"This is the payback period."
More insurance and risk management news about the coronavirus crisis here.