Medical travel during Covid-19 outbreak

Last Modified: October 17, 2020  |   Created on: August 23, 2020
General Health

The global pandemic of novel Coronavirus started in 2019 from a small province in China. It has now spread to almost all countries of the world and infected millions of people. The virus SARS-CoV-2 responsible for Covid-19 has a high transmission rate. The WHO global statistics reports more than 39.4 million confirmed cases worldwide and over 1.11 million deaths, as of Oct 16, 2020. As the number of cases rose, almost all the nations took immediate measures to limit the infection spread and a ban was put on international travels. To further slow down the doubling rate within the nations, guidelines were issued for local social distancing, restriction of local transport, no public gatherings and wearing masks in public places. The countries that are most affected, implemented even more severe measures to prevent the spread of infection. 

However, as the Covid-19 situation is evolving, many countries are planning to or have already re-opened travel. Other restrictions that were put since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic are also subsequently lifting. The removal of temporary restrictions on travel has been based on a thorough risk assessment by every country, including considerations on the local epidemiology and transmission patterns, the national health measures, social protocols to control the outbreak, and the capacities of health systems in both countries of departure and destination, as well as the points of entry.  Other measures based on public health risk assessment, conducted regularly and systematically, are being communicated to the public on regular basis. (for more information, refer to WHO page). 

This page aims to inform and update people about the countries that are gradually returning to international travel operations and measures taken by them

Medical-tarvel-in-Covid-19

General precautionary measures implemented by most countries for travellers:

Laboratory PCR testing: The molecular testing for SARS-CoV-2 immediately prior to departure or on arrival is a mandatory requirement in most countries. This is to obtain the information about the current health status of travellers and ensure that they are not infected. However, as there is a chance that some laboratory results might be false negative and false positive, they should be interpreted with caution. The test results should be issued by a government accredited facility only and a comprehensive COVID-19 should be followed up. The departing travellers are advised who have been tested are advised to report any symptoms to local public health authorities. If a passengers tests positive on arrival, all the other travellers are informed and necessary measures are taken. Travellers are also given emergency phone number so that they can inform the authorities in case they develop symptoms. 

Information form or self-declaration form: This is to obtain information about all the passengers travelling together. In case of emergency or if a person is found positive for Covid-19, other travellers can be informed. All countries and airlines provide their own forms. According to the WHO guideline on contact tracing for COVID-19, people who had been in contact with confirmed cases should be quarantined or asked to self-isolate as part of prevention strategies.

Self-monitor: Travellers should look out for the potential onset of symptoms and take stringent precaution for 14 days after arrival. Any symptoms and travel history should be reported to local health facilities and national protocols must be followed. 

Quarantine requirements: Many countries have implemented quarantine measures for all travellers on arrival, typically for 7 or 14 days. It can be institutional quarantine in a government recognized facility or self-quarantine at a hotel, guest house or residential area.

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Medical travel to other countries 

Several top medical tourism destinations have started welcoming international patients, and they are strictly following the recommended guidelines and taking important precautions. The hospitals are taking proper measures to ensure the safety of all the patients and maintaining stringent hygiene levels at their facilities. 

If you are planning to travel to other country for a medical treatment or other reason, it is best to be aware about the different policies, requirements and public health measures implemented by that nation. (Last updated on Sept 19, 2020). 

Turkey

  • Turkey has opened up to the majority of international travel through air, sea and land borders. 
  • Those arriving in Turkey are required to complete an information form and will be subjected to thermal screening and checked for symptoms. If a person is suspected of having COVID-19 or shows symptoms, a Covid-19 PCR test will be conducted, and they will be transported to a hospital for examination. If an individual on an aircraft/vehicle/vessel is found positive for COVID-19, the individual will then have to be in 14-day isolation/quarantine (at their own expense). The information forms filled by the traveller every upon arrival will be used to identify other people who might have come in contact with the infected patient. 
  • Passengers on the Airlines must wear face masks and fill up the passenger locator forms given by the airline.
  • The travellers do not require any specific health documentation to enter or exit Turkey unless they are arriving for medical treatment. For medical tourism, an individual will need a Medical visa and specific health documentation to enter Turkey for treatment. Visit Turkish MFA’s website for information about how to obtain visas for this purpose. 
  • Quarantine is not mandatory, but foreign passengers who test positive for COVID-19 on arrival will be referred to a private hospital by the Ministry of Health order Health Unit, whereas the Turkish nationals will be referred to a state hospital.
  • Restrictions by airlines: If a passenger shows symptoms such as fever (above 38°C), cough, runny nose, and respiratory distress, he/she will not be admitted to the flights and will be directed to the relevant health institution. Turkish Airlines: https://www.turkishairlines.com/ 
  • Wearing a face mask is compulsory at all times in public in 81 provinces of Turkey. Also, check with your accommodation arrangement/establishment to know if the province you will be staying in has a mandatory mask rule or not. 
  • Standing passengers are not allowed in urban public transportation vehicles as the physical distance rules cannot be applied.
  • ‘Safe Tourism Certification system’: This platform advises and defines an extensive series of measures for transportation and accommodation of all Turkish citizens and international visitors who are going to spend a period of time in Turkey. It is also in regard to the well-being and health conditions of passengers and guests, as well as employees working at touristic facilities.

UAE

  • International travel in and out the country is allowed. (depending on the status of international travel operations in the country a person is travelling to or from)
  • A certificate of negative PCR COVID-19 Test result issued by any government accredited medical facility within 96 hours before boarding the flight is mandatory. This does not apply to children younger than 12 years and individuals with severe or moderate disabilities
  • Thermal screening and COVID-19 PCR testing might be done at the airport.
  • A completed self-declaration health form must be presented upon arrival at Dubai (DXB).
  • Passengers arriving at Dubai (DXB) must download and register the COVID-19 DXB Smart App.
  • There are no special requirements for visa process, as of now. Taxis services are operational between Dubai and Abu Dhabi airport. 
  • Preventive measures taken by the Airlines include passengers must wear face masks, fill up the passenger locator forms provided by the Airlines.
  • Quarantine time after travel is 14 days. The person will need to self-quarantine at home or in a quarantine facility, at their own expense. Follow-up testing will be done after completion of quarantine period.  Travelers arriving into Abu Dhabi have to wear a GPS bracelet for 14 days. Guidance is subject to changes regularly. Quarantine requirements may vary upon certain factors. Visit the Government of Dubai website or Government of Abu Dhabi website, depending on where you will be arriving, to remain updated about the testing on arrival and quarantine. 
  • Preventive measures and restrictions in the country: To enter Abu Dhabi, a person must have COVID-19 test conducted in the last 48 hours from an approved facility or have a scheduled appointment for a laser blood test. 
  • The restrictions on malls, markets, and religious services have been relaxed in the UAE.

UAE Airlines websites provide regular updates on flight schedules and information about regulations upon arriving in Abu Dhabi or Dubai.

Thailand

  • Thailand has some travel restrictions but allowed limited number of foreign nationals from specific categories to enter the country.
  • From 1 October 2020, the visa process will be opened to foreign nationals from countries with low or no local COVID-19 transmission. There is a limit of 300 tourists per week in the month October to help the government form an idea on the level of risk. If the first two groups of 300 foreigner travellers complete their 14 days of quarantine (which will be on 15 October and 21 October) without a positive case, the ministry may decide to increase the limit on the number of tourists per week from 1 November.
  • Anyone who is eligible to enter can submit their application (least 10 working days prior to the intended date of travel) and obtain a Certificate of Entry (COE) from their local Thai embassy or consulate. They will have to present a Fit to Fly Certificate issued by the relevant authority, and a negative PCR test result issued no more than 72 hours before the departure
    Proof of health insurance covering COVID-19 medical examination and treatment (up to US $100,000 minimum0 is also required. Foreign travellers will have to undergo 14 days of mandatory state quarantine at a government-designated facility (self-expense).  

  • The Thai Government has recognized certain categories of foreigner visitors who are now allowed to enter Thailand. The list includes, but is not limited to:
    • Non-Thai nationals who are related as spouse, parents, or children to a Thai national.
    • Non-Thai nationals holding a valid certificate of permanent residency or have permission to take up residence in the Kingdom of Thailand.
    • Non-Thai nationals having work permit or permission from government agencies to work in Thailand, along with their spouse or children.
    • Non-Thai nationals who are students, enrolled at an educational institution approved by Thai authorities, along with the parents or guardians of the students. 
    • Non-Thai nationals who need medical treatment in Thailand, and their attendants. This shall not include medical treatment for COVID-19 infection. 
    • Non-Thai nationals who are permitted to enter the Kingdom under a special arrangement with a foreign country
  • The visitors will be subjected to potential COVID-19 testing upon arrival and to 14-days quarantine.
  • Any eligible foreign national must obtain a “Certificate of Entry” to enter Thailand from their local Thai embassy or consulate.
  • Passengers will need to present a fit-to-fly health certificate which attests that the passenger pose no risk of being infected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during check-in. 
  • A negative PCR COVID-19 lab test result issued within 72 hours must be presented before the departure.
  • While travelling, face masks are compulsory on the flights. 
  • Passengers need to show a proof of health insurance (in amount of US$ 100,000) that could cover all expenditures of medical treatment while travelling abroad.
  • Covid-19 screening will be conducted for all arriving passengers
  • Visitors are recommended to download the AOT Airport app in their personal device and report their state of health. The app can be found on Google Play store or other App stores.
  • Passengers are encouraged to self-isolate for at least 14 days and follow all the precautions even after this period. It is advised go out when necessary but avoid situations/ public places with crowds.
  • Keep updated with latest information about the local situation from the official websites of WHO and the Thai Department of Disease Controls.
  • Face masks are compulsory on public transport 

Tourist visas will be issued to travellers who wish to stay in the country for a minimum of 90 days. This will come under the STV or Special Tourist Visas. A payment of 2000 baht or 64 USD must be made by the tourists and the visa is extendable up to 270 days. For approval, following must be presented:

  1. Proof of accommodation bookings for the quarantine period
  2. Proof of ownership of property or rent deposit for the chosen apartment during the stay
  3. Confirmed flight tickets

 The Special Tourist visa to Thailand will remain in effect till September 2021.

Check updates on Thailand travel: https://www.tatnews.org/category/thailand-tourism-updates/ 

India

Although the recovery rate is positive, India is yet to resume normal international travel for all the destinations. The government is in discussions with several countries to form an air bubble and enable air transportation for citizens of other countries. Indian health authorities are working hard to ensure the safety for the citizens as well as visitors. Necessary measures are being taken by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Home Affairs to limit the spread of Covid-19. All the instructions and recommendations are regularly communicated to the public. Also, the hospitals in India are making tight-rope arrangements and following international guidelines to make their facilities Covid-19 safe. Once the travel is lifted, international patients can comfortably travel to India and avail the required treatment. Meanwhile, telecommunication services have been started by many hospitals and healthcare organizations to help patients. With the telemedicine facilities, patients and their family members can receive consultations and primary medical opinions for the health experts or specialists, based on their medical condition. To view the top doctors in India available for teleconsultation services on our page, click here.

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Tips for the Travel

During your trip, make sure to take certain steps to protect yourself and others from exposure to COVID-19 virus:

  • Wear a face mask to keep your nose and mouth covered in all public places 
  • Avoid close contact and maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from anyone who is not from your household
  • Wash your hands as often as you need or use hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick or shows symptoms
  • Avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth
Vanshika Rawat

Written By Vanshika Rawat

Vanshika Rawat is an experienced content developer. She is very knowledgeable in the field of science and healthcare and has worked under brilliant scientists during her higher education. Vanshika obtained her degrees in Masters in Science and Bachelors in Science (Microbiology with Hons.) from renowned institutions - Panjab University and University of Delhi.
Dr. Suneet Singh

Verified By Dr. Suneet Singh

Dr. Suneet is a doctor-turned-Hospital Administrator with a rich 12 years plus multi-faceted experience in the field of operations management, Corporate and Public Health Administration. Formerly a practicing doctor, Dr. Suneet holds a post-graduate degree in Hospital and Healthcare management from one of the country's esteemed Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS)

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Vanshika Rawat

Written By Vanshika Rawat

Vanshika Rawat is an experienced content developer. She is very knowledgeable in the field of science and healthcare and has worked under brilliant scientists during her higher education. Vanshika obtained her degrees in Masters in Science and Bachelors in Science (Microbiology with Hons.) from renowned institutions - Panjab University and University of Delhi.
Dr. Suneet Singh

Verified By Dr. Suneet Singh

Dr. Suneet is a doctor-turned-Hospital Administrator with a rich 12 years plus multi-faceted experience in the field of operations management, Corporate and Public Health Administration. Formerly a practicing doctor, Dr. Suneet holds a post-graduate degree in Hospital and Healthcare management from one of the country's esteemed Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS)
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