Malaysia allows patients from six countries

 

The country's governing body for medical tourism, the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council (MHTC), agreed to allowing patients from specified nations to arrive on commercial flights and enter via green zones, but subject to clearance and permission from their own governments.

Six countries were identified for green zone entry:

  • Australia
  • Brunei
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • South Korea

For other countries, only foreign patients with serious illnesses are allowed into Malaysia to receive treatment. They must also fly in on private charter or medical evacuation flights and are confined to the hospital during the duration of their stay. They are not allowed to be a tourist before or after their treatment. Many of these need cancer treatment or cardiovascular surgery.

Malaysia started allowing medical tourists from the six countries to enter from July. Since then the country has banned citizens of dozens of countries with more than 150,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, amid concern over local outbreaks that could be traced back to visitors from overseas. If any of the six green list countries exceed the limit they will be banned again. The government has stepped back from adding more countries amid a debate on whether or not to ban all medical tourism.

Penang medical service providers are urging the Malaysian and state government to rethink the blanket ban on incoming travellers from a number of high-risk countries, but they are fighting a losing battle at national and state level.

Countries on the entry ban list include key source markets for Malaysia’s medical tourism, including Indonesia, USA, UK, Bangladesh, India, and the Philippines.

Malaysia had hoped to attract some two million medical travellers from abroad this year through its Malaysia Year of Healthcare Travel 2020 campaign, which has been postponed until 2021.

Penang Centre of Medical Tourism has suggested that instead of a blanket ban, medical tourists be required to self-isolate for 14 days and present a negative Covid-19 certificate prior to departure for Malaysia.

A key lesson the pandemic has taught the local medical tourism market in Penang is that there is an urgent need to diversify source markets and not over-rely on Indonesia.

The target for 2020 was to attract two million medical tourists to Malaysia, of which one million would come from Indonesia. Post pandemic it expects the 2020 total to be under 300,000.

MHTC says Malaysia earned RM1.7 billion in medical travel revenue in 2019 (US$550 million), and the original target for 2020 was RM2billion.

Post pandemic expectations from MHTC for 2020, is RM500 million in hospital receipts and RM2 billion in contributions to the economy.

MHTC is optimistic for 2021 with a target of 800 million ringgit (US$194 million) of revenue from medical tourists but now warns that recovery may not fully begin until this time next year.

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