Expat Focus International Healthcare Update September 2021
Abu Dhabi is a world leader in Covid-19 response
The Deep Knowledge Group in London has recently published a survey researching global responses to the Covid-19 pandemic: ‘Ranking of the Safest Cities during the Covid-19 Pandemic for the Second Quarter of 2021.’ Abu Dhabi came top, followed by Singapore, Seoul, Tel Aviv and Dubai. Toronto, Sydney, Zurich, Dublin and Ottawa also came in the top 10. London came 11th.
We have reported elsewhere in this newsletter on the growing popularity of the Emirates as an expat destination, due in part to the country’s robust response to the pandemic. It is currently seeing its lowest Covid-19 numbers for a year, and around eight in 10 people are now fully vaccinated.
Quarantine rules continue to change
Large parts of Europe, including Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Italy are now quarantine free, and the health pass has become a norm, allowing you to freely travel if you’ve been fully vaccinated, have had a negative PCR test, or have recently had Covid-19 – you’ll need a medical certificate proving that you’ve had the illness. Make sure you’re aware of possible penalties. If you come into Spain without one of the above, for instance, you could be liable to a €3K fine.
Asia and the Middle East are overall slower to open up. You won’t need to quarantine if you’re travelling to Dubai, but the rules are different in Abu Dhabi, where you will need to isolate for seven days, and in Sharjah, where you’ll need to remain in quarantine until you’ve had a negative PRC test. In Dubai itself, if you’re a resident and are coming back into the country, you’ll need a permit to get back in, which can be found on the Dubai government website.
Few countries have no quarantine or testing: Colombia, Costa Rica and Kosovo are the main nations who are currently not insisting on either. Some nations are targeting quarantine geographically. Uzbekistan, for example, is only insisting on quarantine for travellers from India.
Some countries, such as Singapore and Taiwan, are still closed to everyone but residents. If you need to get back into the country, you may have to ask your company to approve your visit, and you’ll need to follow Covid-19 criteria (PCR test, 14-day quarantine, and travel insurance that covers the pandemic). The USA is still restricting travel entirely to anyone from the UK.
The UK itself is still operating its traffic light system. Be aware that the different countries of the UK have different regulations. British and Irish citizens can travel between Eire and Northern Ireland, as long as they can prove their vaccination status.
Our advice remains the same: check the regulations in your destination carefully, and make sure you check them up to the point of travel, in case they change.
Covid-19 insurance for cruises
If you’re intending to go on a cruise, travel experts counsel taking out insurance that covers Covid-19 – for obvious reasons, since some ships became floating plague palaces during the pandemic, and a lot of people lost out on planned cruises. P&O and Cunard both ask that passengers take out travel insurance that covers them against Covid-related emergencies and repatriation for up to £2 million. Some insurance companies are also offering money off PCR tests, so shop around and see what your new policy entitles you to.
It’s worth considering specific cruise insurance, even without the complications of a pandemic, as this can cover you for things that are particular to your holiday, such as missing ports or transport from the boat to the shore in the case of illness. Some policies will allow you to claim travel and accommodation costs if you are delayed on shore because of illness and have to catch up with the cruise at a later stop, for example.
Singapore rebrands post-pandemic
The Singaporean authorities are conscious that they need to tread a fine line between welcoming foreigners into the country after the pandemic and a more insular approach – like in many countries, localisation is becoming an issue in the state. A number of Singaporeans have become irritated at what they see as foreigners flouting the regulations. A British man was deported for refusing to comply with the mask regulations, for example, and others have had their work passes revoked.
In an address on National Day, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said:
“We must not turn our backs … and give the impression that Singapore is becoming xenophobic and hostile to foreigners. It would gravely damage our reputation as an international hub. It would cost us investments, jobs and opportunities.”
But tightening the rules on working visas and differences in vaccine eligibility, among other factors, have meant that some expats are looking to relocate elsewhere. Federico Donato, President of the European Chamber of Commerce, said:
“Allow me to borrow an example from soccer. If you play in the Champions League, you need to have the best talent, you want to have Ronaldo, Bonucci and Messi to compete at the top level. If you want to be a top banking centre, you want to be a global tech hub, you cannot do it without an influx of people – especially if you are a country with just five million people.”
It’s worth keeping an eye on the situation in Singapore. There will still be top jobs available, once the pandemic has died down a bit.
Japan’s vaccine rollout finally gathers pace
Japan’s vaccination rollout has been criticised by many Japanese residents for being slow, and the government has faced censure over allowing the Tokyo Olympics to go ahead. One Japanese expat told us that people resent being told to isolate at home for so long while athletes have been allowed into the country. The rollout has been speeded up over the summer, but slowed again in Okinawa due to contaminants (probably bits of rubber) being found in Moderna vaccine phials. Currently, only 45% of the population have been vaccinated.
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