Expat Focus International Healthcare Update June 2021

Last month’s top story relating to healthcare and expats is still this month’s top story, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to pursue its roller-coaster course around the globe. In this month’s round-up, we take a look at vaccination news, corruption in accessing healthcare services across the EU, and the latest lockdown measures in the UK.

 

American expats insist on vaccinations

A group of high-profile American nationals in Thailand have issued an open letter to the US government asking that vaccines should be issued to US citizens abroad. This comes alongside the visit of US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy R. Sherman, to Thailand. Expat spokespersons, such as Democrats Abroad Thailand chair Paul Risley, Republicans Overseas Asia vice president Tony Rodriguez, American Women’s Club of Thailand president Ambreen Miraly, and Veterans of Foreign Wars commander Carl Manchester, have called on the US government to come to their aid in the light of Thailand’s slow vaccine rollout (only 3.5% of the population have thus far been vaccinated). They’re asking that help should be given not just to expats in Thailand, but to all the 9 million US citizens abroad, quoting President Biden’s recent speech, in which he says:

“Let’s remember, we’re all Americans. Let’s remember that we are all in this together… And we have to take this pandemic, tackle it not just here, but overseas as well to truly be safe in the long run.”

 

Will you need a vaccine passport?

Now that the Covid-19 vaccination roll-outs have been gathering pace in many countries, the issue of vaccination passports is coming to the forefront of the international agenda. Some countries have said that they will introduce them, and others have said that they will not, but the overall picture is not yet clear. The main issues are:

  • Security (you don’t want a passport that can be easily faked)
  • Discrimination (some people will not be able to be vaccinated)
  • Qualifying criteria (is the passport based on a vaccination and a negative test, or another combination of factors?)

For instance, the EU is bringing in a Digital Covid Certificate, which EU citizens will be entitled to use from July 1st. This will have a QR code, which you can scan in, details of your vaccination (such as origin and batch number), and may also have other medical information contained within it as well. Estonia, Hungary, Bahrain and Poland have already begun to issue digital vaccination certificates. They were due to be followed, in June, by a number of other EU and Schengen nations that have either signed up, or are about to, with the EUDCC gateway. Elsewhere, Emirates have been trialling a travel passport, and other airlines are, again, either set to do so or have already done so.

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The EU has said that they intend to open the bloc up to non-citizens with a similar digital passport soon – for example, to Americans. They say that they are working to ensure compatibility with other countries’ documentation.

The UK says that you can use the NHS app as a vaccine passport if you have to travel, if you are registered with a GP in England and are aged 13 or over. Note that this is different from the Covid-19 app, which is for track and trace. The NHS app now has a section for your vaccination status and some of your medical history.

 

Bribery for healthcare across the EU

A recent survey by Transparency International, canvassing 40,000 respondents, suggests that corruption is widespread across the EU when it comes to accessing healthcare services. Personal connections are the most common underhand way of gaining access to services, a phenomenon described by TI chair Delia Ferreira Rubio as being “as damaging as paying bribes. Lives can be lost when connected people get a Covid-19 vaccine or medical treatment before those with more urgent needs.”

6% of those consulted said that they had actually paid a monetary bribe, but around 29% admitted to having relied on personal connections to get treatment during the pandemic. Actual bribery was highest in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, but Cyprus also featured in the report as part of a wider scandal about the new ‘golden passports’ being given to criminals and fugitives. The Czech Republic, Portugal and Hungary, came top of the list when it came to personal connections, with 54% of Czech respondents admitting to having drawn on their personal networks. Danes and Finns, however, do not have a widespread belief that corruption is a problem in their countries.

 

England remains in Step 3

As you will know by now, if you are in the UK, the country will remain in Step 3 for a month past the original ‘opening up’ date of 21st June. The government says that you do not now need a reasonable excuse to leave England to travel to other parts of the UK, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man or the Republic of Ireland.

There are no longer any restrictions on leaving England to travel internationally, but to protect public health in the UK and the vaccine rollout, you should not travel to those nations that remain on the red and amber lists. Make sure you keep an eye on these lists if they affect you, as they are constantly changing.

If you’re travelling to England, what you need to do will depend on where you have been in the 10 days before you arrive. If you’ve been in a country or territory on the:

  • Green list – you must take a coronavirus (Covid-19) test on or before day two
  • Amber list – you must quarantine in the place you’re staying and take two Covid-19 tests
  • Red list – you must quarantine in a hotel and take two Covid-19 tests

You cannot currently enter the UK if you’ve been in or through a country on the red list, unless you’re British, Irish, or have the right to live in the UK.

Before you depart for the UK, you’ll need to:

  • Provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken in the three days before you leave for the UK
  • Complete a passenger locator form

You can check the rules on the UK government site, which also has a step-by-step guide to overseas travel.


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