Expat Focus International Healthcare Update March 2022

Covid-19 remains the dominant issue in healthcare news for expats; however, the pandemic – though still ongoing – is now having less of an impact than it has had over the past two years, and the world is gradually starting to open up again.

Returning to the UK

If you are coming back into the UK from abroad, you need to be aware that Covid-19 regulations, such as Covid passports, have been scrapped across the UK, but some venues may still insist on these, as well as mask-wearing (it is the right of individual premises to do so).

With regard to regional regulations, the Scottish authorities say that venues must have a good reason to check someone’s vaccination status via their Covid pass. In other words, they can’t request this information ‘just in case.’ In Wales, you no longer need your Covid pass for theatres, cinemas and concert venues.

In Northern Ireland, venues such as pubs and restaurants no longer request a pass, but passes are still required for:

  • Newly-reopened nightclubs
  • Indoor events (unseated)
  • Partially seated events with more than 500 people in attendance

In England, the government has scrapped all regulations and says that Covid-19 passes will only apply in cases of overseas travel from 1st April. Check government guidelines on travel to specific destinations.

 

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Red listed countries

If you are travelling out of the UK, no countries are currently on the red list. However, the US authorities are advising against travel to Hong Kong, where the virus is still causing significant problems. The city state’s borders are closed to visitors, and returning residents are likely to find themselves faced with two to three weeks of quarantine.

Note that there are now places you can visit if you are not vaccinated or partially vaccinated. Unvaccinated travellers will now be able to enter Greece with evidence of a negative test or a certificate of recovery from Covid-19. Similarly, Italy will accept a negative test or a Covid recovery certificate (you will have to quarantine if you don’t have either of these). You will also need to fill out a passenger locator form.

Portugal, Turkey and Cyprus have similar requirements. Some countries, however, such as Mexico, will allow entry regardless of vaccination status, and others, such as Costa Rica, will permit travellers to enter if they have proof of insurance that will cover them in case of hospitalisation or medical treatment for Covid-19. Iceland and Norway have now removed all travel restrictions.

It is, in any case, worth your while to investigate travel/health insurance which will extend to Covid cover when you are travelling. Travel companies advise that travellers think hard about insurance, as many of us have not travelled for a couple of years and might be ‘rusty’ when it comes to the logistics. Check that you don’t already have travel insurance as part of an existing package (for example, with your bank account), and remember that winter sports holidays or specific kinds of vacations, such as diving holidays, may not be covered by your existing insurance and will usually require more tailored cover.

 

UAE aims to help low-income expats

In the UAE, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP), Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies and global health consultancy Axios have been working together to increase the scope of the UAE’s ‘Hand in Hand’ public-private initiative. Hand in Hand provides affordable medicines to expats who are “low-income…uninsured, underinsured, and financially distressed.” It thus offers some assistance to patients who do have health insurance, but find that their insurance does not cover conditions such as pulmonary arterial hypertension, multiple myeloma, active ulcerative colitis, and psoriatic arthritis.

 

Saudi Arabia asks airlines to refund quarantine fee

The Saudi Arabian government has now scrapped institutional requirements and, in addition, has asked airlines to refund the institutional quarantine package fee required from passengers prior to the announcement. The state has also scrapped mandatory Covid-19 institutional quarantine and home quarantine for travellers, and you no longer need to submit a negative PCR or antigen test result.

 

Best US cities for healthcare

IT service automation company SysAid has recently conducted a survey to ascertain the longest hospital wait times across the USA. Top of the list comes the District of Colombia, with an average patient wait time of 240 minutes. Maryland and Delaware follow. All are on the East Coast, but California has an average wait time of 164 minutes. The West Coast state is currently in the process of creating the first government-funded, universal healthcare system in the US. This would be a single-payer system funded by taxes. If passed, the new legislation will open up healthcare to around 700,000 people, but it faces stiff opposition.


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