Expat Focus International Healthcare Update May 2022

Shanghai lockdown continues

China Daily estimates that 164,000 of Shanghai’s 25 million residents are from overseas, and these expats are being badly affected by the recent strict lockdown. Expats report feeling isolated and blocked off from Chinese measures to assist residents (for example, via chat lines that organise bulk purchases for their communities) because they don’t speak the language fluently. Government assistance has been described as ‘scarce’ and ‘random.’ Obtaining bottled water has been a problem, and items such as baby supplies are in short supply if, for example, there are not enough parents in a block to put in a bulk order.

Whilst Shanghai airport is open and expats are allowed to leave in principle, in practice this is difficult. Expats need a pass to leave their compound, and some report that their neighbourhood committees have turned down passes despite assistance from applicants’ employers and their embassies. Arranging the negative tests needed for flight departures is also tricky, as neighbourhood committees won’t issue passes at the right time for a hospital visit. In addition, transport to your flight might be difficult, with only airport buses servicing the airport.

Expat opinion as to the necessity of this lockdown varies. Some feel that the city has been right to try and avoid the high infection rates of Hong Kong, currently running at 773 new infections each day and close to 6000 deaths between January and March 2022, according to Reuters and the health authorities. Others feel that the economic cost may prove to be too high.

Overseas (US, British and EU) Chambers of Commerce in China say that the expat community has been badly affected. The British CC in China estimates that around 40% of the TEFL teachers in the country will be leaving in the next year. Jörg Wuttke, president of the EU CC in China, says that 50% of European expats in the country have left since the beginning of the pandemic. Shanghai has long been a major international hub for the country, but multinationals here are struggling to retain and attract staff, with one expat reporting to a French news agency that Zero Covid has become ‘a fervent belief.’

Alex Duncan, who is the founder of Shanghai-based marketing startup KAWO, also informed Al Jazeera that “There has been a huge exodus growing since Covid first began. But this (latest) lockdown forced those who’d been considering leaving for a while, to make a final decision.”

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New Zealand expats return home

A number of Kiwi expats feel that Covid in New Zealand is only just beginning, now that the country has finally started to open up and infection rates have started to rise. However, with 95% vaccination, this is less worrying than it was two years ago, and New Zealand expats are starting to return.

Expats have returned to find that although vaccine mandates are no longer in place, mask wearing is still commonplace. And returnees have reported their shock at the rise in the cost of living, with petrol and coffee seeing steep increases.

Qatar’s new health insurance scheme

Qatar is bringing in a new mandatory health insurance scheme, designed to limit health tourism and reduce waiting times in public healthcare facilities. The new regulations are due to come into effect in May 2022, and under them, expats will need to register with the new scheme in order to access the public healthcare system. You will need Basic Health Insurance to apply for entry and residence permits, and your sponsors/employers must cover non-Qatari employees and their dependants with a registered insurance company. Employers who do not comply will be fined.

Visitors must either prove that they have valid health insurance, or must sign up to the scheme, with the aim of reducing access to the public system by health tourists. Expats will have the opportunity to be treated in new healthcare centres, and more private provision will be offered for locals, in order to free up the public healthcare system.

Pandemic in decline in Czech Republic

The Czech Ministry of Health is reporting that Covid seems to be on the wane in the country, with the lowest daily new case rate since October appearing at the end of April. The number of patients in hospitals across the country fell to around 800 at the same time. Health Minister Vlastimil Válek was aiming to end restrictions around the 3rd of May, due to these low case rates. However, he also told journalists that the country is anticipating a further wave of Covid in the autumn, and has been gearing up for supplying sufficient vaccines and anti-viral medication to the country.

EU ‘moving out’ of Covid

Ursula von der Leyen, commenting on the pandemic across the EU, says that the EU is now moving:

“…from emergency mode to a more sustainable management of COVID…We know the way forward. We need to further step-up vaccination and boosting, and targeted testing — and we need to continue to coordinate our responses closely in the EU.”

She says that booster jabs and variant sampling need to be kept up. The bloc has been stepping up its vaccine capacity to3-4 billion jabs a year.

State of Victoria to recruit expat health workers

Post pandemic, the Australian state of Victoria is aiming to inject AUS$12 billion into its healthcare system, and this will include the recruitment of expat healthcare workers. The state says that it is planning a global recruitment drive to attract up to 2,000 international staff to the state.


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