COVID Travel Barriers Fall & IPMI Provision Set to Adapt

As restrictions on travel across the world continue to ease, the ability for employees to work internationally has increased. The picture, however, is far from clear.

The United Kingdom has announced the removal of all legal restrictions around the management of COVID-19 but, while western nations are relaxing the rules, in other areas of the world the continued spread of the virus is not still having an impact, but is likely to shape future healthcare strategies.

The worlds airlines are reporting a leap in ticket sales as COVID-19 border restrictions are removed. A survey by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) of travel restrictions for the worlds top 50 air travel markets (comprising 92% of global demand in 2019 as measured by revenue passenger kilometres) revealed the growing access available to vaccinated travellers.

The Study found:

  • 18 markets (comprising about 20% of 2019 demand) are open to vaccinated travellers without quarantine or pre-departure testing requirements.
  • 28 markets are open to vaccinated travellers without quarantine requirements (including the 18 markets above). This comprises about 50% of 2019 demand.
  • 37 markets (comprising about 60% of 2019 demand) are open to vaccinated travellers under varying conditions (18 having no restrictions, others requiring testing or quarantine or both).

IATA said the numbers reflect a spate of relaxations announced around the world, including in Australia, France, the Philippines, the UK, Switzerland, and Sweden.

However Willie Walsh, IATAs Director General warned that while the easing of restrictions will enhance the ability for travellers to move across the global there were still some very notable exceptions.

Momentum toward normalising traffic is growing. Vaccinated travellers have the potential to travel much more extensively with fewer hassles than even a few weeks ago,” he explained. This is giving growing numbers of travellers the confidence to buy tickets. And that is good news! Now we need to further accelerate the removal of travel restrictions. While recent progress is impressive, the world remains far from 2019 levels of connectivity. Thirteen of the top 50 travel markets still do not provide easy access to all vaccinated travellers. That includes major economies like China, Japan, Russia, Indonesia, and Italy.”

A case in point is Hong Kong. Traditionally a popular home for expats and one of the worlds leading financial services, and maritime centres it has introduced ever more onerous restrictions.

Indeed along with China it has not seen any real relaxation of the regulations since COVID began over two years ago.

Currently, there are no direct flights from the USA, and Hong Kong residents who travel abroad must quarantine in designated hotels for two weeks when they return, at their own expense.

Hong Kong has also imposed a number of ever-shifting restrictions on social gatherings. In-person dining at restaurants is banned starting at 6 pm and bars, gyms and other places where people gather have been shut down.

For some expats the constant restrictions have proved too much. According to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, 44% of more than 250 respondents are considering leaving the city because of its COVID policies.

The organisation represents more than 600 U.S. companies, and its outgoing president, Tara Joseph, has said the exodus is set to continue:

“A lot of people have left. A lot of people are considering leaving. Other people are just trying to stick it out.”

Those expats employees who take the decision to continue to work internationally are likely to find that the future will see very different demands and approaches when it comes to International Private Medical Insurance (IPMI).

Firstly global governments are now aware of the strain that COVID has placed upon health systems and the threat of future pandemics.

As such there is a renewed focus on firms to ensure that expat employees arrive with robust and adequate health cover in place.

While governments are keen to ensure staff are fully covered, it is a view that is more than matched by employees themselves. COVID has focused the minds of employees on their physical and mental welfare. Companies are under pressure to make sure that employees’ physical and mental health are addressed and adequately monitored.

The situation is likely to create an even sharper focus on the provision of holistic care and prevention in the insurance market, with an emphasis on good physical, mental and emotional health, as well as a greater reliance on virtual healthcare.