Malaysia tightens border control, cuts medical tourism targets amid increasing COVID-19 outbreaks


Malaysia’s aim to attract medical tourists by focusing on curbing the coronavirus outbreak hit a roadblock as resurgences around the world limited its ability to reopen borders.

Hospitals in the country can expect to earn 800 million ringgit ($194 million) of revenue from medical tourists next year, compared with 500 million ringgit this year, according to the Malaysia Healthcare Tourism Council. That’s far short of the 1.7 billion ringgit the industry earned in 2019 and its earlier 2020 target for 2 billion ringgit.

“We may not have a normal travel behavior pattern returning soon,” the council’s Chief Executive Officer Sherene Azli said in an interview. “Before this we thought that the borders, the pandemic will go earlier than expected, now we are thinking borders will not be relaxed even in mid-2021 or even at the end of 2021.”

Malaysia started allowing medical tourists from six countries including Singapore, Japan and Australia 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.


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