Malaysia cuts medical tourism goal on tighter border control


  • Economy
  • Friday, 18 Sep 2020

Foreign workers follow the SOP of RMCO and wear their mask while go to public place. The pandemic of Covid 19 has changed the daily routine of the public. 17 Sept 2020 --CHAN TAK KONG/The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s aim to attract medical tourists by focusing on curbing the Covid-19 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 Travel 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.

The country expects to welcome fewer than 300,000 medical tourists in 2020, compared with 1.2 million last year, Sherene said.

Malaysia’s hospitals have resorted to offering online consultations to adapt, with plans to focus on improving services for cancer, heart diseases and fertility treatment during this slow period, she added.

Shares of IHH Healthcare Bhd., Asia’s largest hospital group, rose 1% on Friday, while fertility treatment providers TMC Life Sciences Bhd. gained 1% and Metro Healthcare Bhd. climbed 2%.

"We feel that that is a strong trust that we can build for Malaysia in terms of delivering world-class quality healthcare, ” Sherene said. - Bloomberg

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