Covid-19 continues to feature in global healthcare news, although cases have been falling internationally. On 8th November, the UK press reported the number of Covid-19 related deaths had fallen in England and Wales for the first time in five weeks, but there were still over 600 deaths in the week leading up to 28th October. Figures from the Office of National Statistics suggested that 1.6 million households in England experienced Covid-19 in the week prior to 24th October. If you are living abroad and coming back to the UK, or flying out, remember to continue to consult the government’s website for any revised regulations or developments. In this month’s round-up, we look not only at Covid-19, but also at other healthcare news currently affecting expats.
Victoria entices healthcare workers back
In Australia, the government of Victoria is offering financial incentives to both Australian and international healthcare workers, including those working in mental health. The scheme is being offered to those who are:
- Currently living overseas, including Australian citizens returning home or non-residents who meet Commonwealth visa requirements
- International candidates whose profession falls under the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) and have secured a job with a Victorian health service between 1st April 2022 and 30th June 2023 and intend to work within the Victorian public health system for at least two years, with access to the relevant Australian registration or accreditation for their profession
- Fully vaccinated for Covid-19 by a Therapeutic Goods Administration approved or recognised vaccine.
The scheme includes an international travel allowance to help with relocation costs:
- $10,000 for healthcare workers who secure a role in a public metropolitan health service
- $13,000 for healthcare workers who secure a role in a rural or regional health service.
If you are a returning Australian or international healthcare professional, and are interested in working in Australia, it may be worth considering this initiative. Application to this scheme can be made during the recruitment process.
Dhaman update: Kuwait
In August, we reported on the new Health Insurance Hospitals Company (Dhaman) initiative for expat workers in Kuwait. It now appears that the objective is to open 15 centres instead of five (a number which was too low to service the number of expats resident in the country). Four centres have already been opened and the transfer of patients, under a new mandatory health insurance scheme, is estimated to take two years. Once you’ve been registered, you’ll only be able to seek treatment at your designated centre and will not be permitted to access private healthcare. Standards are expected to be very high, however.
China maintains strong approach to Covid measures
It is unclear whether China will greatly relax its Covid-19 measures any time soon, according to recent reports – a disappointment to investors, but perhaps inevitable given that early November has seen the largest number of cases since spring. Capital Economics says that the Chinese government is not looking at a move away from a zero Covid-19 policy in 2023, and that the rate of Covid-19 deaths in Hong Kong has convinced the Chinese authorities not to open up any time soon. In saying this, some measures are being taken on relaxing international flight measures, for example.
The relatively low rate of take-up of the vaccine among the elderly also seems to be a factor. Although China is rolling out a vaccine that can be inhaled, which might prove more acceptable to an elderly population who are fearful of injections. Domestic travel has decreased and localised, and targeted lockdowns are now a common occurrence.
However, on 4th November, Reuters reported that a former Chinese disease control official suggested that there would be ‘substantial changes’ in the near future, although the form that these might take is not yet clear.
If you are an expat working in China, you may already be aware that the government is planning to make BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine available to expats.
Expats criticise Ireland’s healthcare
Ireland’s healthcare has come under fire from a number of expats, who ranked it 38 out of 52 countries in a recent survey. Half of those canvassed felt that it was difficult to access health services and that these were, moreover, unaffordable. The Daily Express quoted one expat in October:
“The scarcity of beds in public hospitals is appalling, in addition to the poor quality of health services and the long waiting list for both public and private hospitals.”
WHO report Egypt clear of measles and rubella
The World Health Organisation reported recently that Egypt is now clear of measles and rubella, the result of an immunization programme for nationals and expats. Egypt’s Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines (VACSERA), built in cooperation with the Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac, is set to become a regional hub for vaccine manufacture. In addition, on 5th November, the Ministry of Health and Population reported that 8,000 hospitality workers at Sharm El Sheikh have been vaccinated against hepatitis A in preparation for COP 27. If you’re an expat in Egypt and think you might be eligible for a vaccine, make enquiries at your local health centre.
Healthcare ‘an issue’ for expats in the Philippines
Financial experts Penfold have put the Philippines at the top of their list of the cheapest countries to retire to. However, there are some drawbacks. Penfold reports:
“The Philippines has the lowest costs within the countries listed, yet the worst quality of healthcare facilities.”
Although Filipino medical personnel are often highly trained and very skilled, they are let down by the standard of local facilities. If you are considering the Philippines as a destination, you may want to check out medical facilities near your relocation site. Healthcare tends to be better in the cities than in rural areas, and private facilities tend to be generally of a higher standard. You could also look into private healthcare elsewhere in the region, such as Hong Kong or Singapore.