Healthcare news across the world has been focused on Covid-19, but at this stage of the pandemic, reports have been more in relation to vaccination rollout programmes than the progress of the disease itself – and that’s good news. We’ll take a look below at what this, and other healthcare news, might mean for you as an expat.
Travel restrictions due to Covid-19
The UK government says that all travel corridors for people arriving in England are suspended. Anyone coming to England must quarantine for 10 days and take two coronavirus tests whilst in quarantine.
If you have been in a country on the travel ban red list in the 10 days before you arrive, you will need to quarantine in a government-approved hotel.
You must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test to travel to England from abroad, and you must take a test, even if you’re a UK citizen and have already been vaccinated. You will need to take the test in the three days before arriving in England.
Scotland, Wales and Ireland may have slightly different travel regulations, so if you plan to travel to one of these countries, make sure you check the latest rules.
Your test result can be provided as:
- A printed document
- An email or text message you can show on your phone – make sure your device is charged
If you do not present proof that you have tested negative, you may not be allowed to travel, and if you arrive in England without proof that you tested negative, you could face a fine of £500.
If you stop in another country on the way, you should try to take a test in that country, too. For example, if you’re driving from Germany and stop for a few days in Belgium, you will need to take a test in Belgium. You should be aware that some countries are not geared up for testing. The UK government website cites Myanmar as an example, but there are others.
Check the precise regulations on the UK government website – this site gives details of the kind of test that you will need.
Healthcare access and Brexit
The other big issue facing British expats in the EU has, of course, been Brexit. Some Brits resident in Puglia in Italy have reported problems with getting their national healthcare cards renewed. Italy is, they say, ‘on their side’, but it has been slow to implement the necessary bureaucracy. Similarly, expats in France have reported problems with the paperwork. This is usually due to issues with obtaining a national identity card for third party nationals – Brits don’t actually qualify for this version of the card under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, but without the card, they’re not allowed to renew their healthcare cards or even, in some cases, open a bank account. This has also apparently meant that some expats, despite reassurances from health authorities in their host nation, have been unable to book a Covid-19 vaccination.
Matters are somewhat better in Germany, however. British pensioners resident in the country may still have questions about the status of their S1 forms, but the German authorities say that you do not need to do anything. If you were the holder of an S1 form on 31st December 2020, the United Kingdom will continue to finance your healthcare. This applies as long as you continue to live in Germany and are covered by the regulations contained in the Withdrawal Agreement.
If you were in Germany at the end of the transition period and are a few years away from pensionable age, you can still apply for a portable S1 document as soon as you have applied for your state pension in the United Kingdom. You’ll need to show that you were lawfully resident in Germany. You will have access to the same health insurance benefits and services as German pensioners.
Which countries have given the most Covid-19 vaccinations?
Currently the top three countries globally in terms of jabs given are Gibraltar, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). All of these countries have relatively small populations. Serbia and the Isle of Man are also doing well.
If you are a British expat, you will be eligible for the jab under the NHS, if you return to the UK, although when you can get it will depend on which priority group you fall under. However, the UK government has warned people not to travel back home specifically to receive the vaccination. They advise that you should have it in your host country, if at all possible. You will not be able to arrange your jab in the UK from overseas; you must do this from the UK.
The above may mean you get your vaccination later than planned. For example, in Kuwait, there have been reports that vaccinations for expats (who, after all, make up 70% of the Kuwaiti population), have been delayed due to the prioritisation of Kuwaiti nationals. Dubai, on the other hand, has been offering vaccinations for expats who have entered the country to work remotely.
For American expats, the USA is not providing vaccination for its citizens overseas. You will need to contact the health authorities in your host nation in order to resolve this. If you are an American living in the UK, you will be entitled to have your jab on the NHS. You can either contact your GP or book yourself in using the vaccination website.
Operation Freedom comes to Greece
The Greek health authorities are aiming to inoculate everyone in the Greek islands in an attempt to provide a safe destination for tourists. Haris Theoharis, the Minister for Tourism, says that the country plans to welcome British visitors with open ‘arms and doors.’ Helicopters and the military have been engaged in an effort to vaccinate 69 or 70 islands before the end of April, in anticipation of a summer rush.