Indian government unconvinced about medical travellers

Various Indian medical tourism organisations are pressuring the Indian government to open the borders to medical tourists. It is yet to be convinced that the country can reopen safely for medical tourism.

An 18-point list of requirements for inbound medical travellers to India includes having only one attendant, no sightseeing, no shopping, no cab sharing, and access to contact-less service in hotels and hospitals.

The industry has come up with a comprehensive list of standard operating procedures submitted to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Tourism, and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for approval.

Medical travel agencies have prepared these, in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and major hospital chains.

The Ministry of Tourism says that discussions are at an advanced stage but admits that it is a very complicated matter.

The first problem is that India has no date for the resumption of international flights. It is also considering new procedures and rules for all entrants to the country including on testing and quarantine.

The country is in negotiations for establishing air travel bubbles with several countries, based on Covid-safe travel zones to restart scheduled international passenger flights. It has air bubble arrangements with the USA, UK, France, Germany, Canada and the Maldives and is in talks to activate an air bubble arrangement with Kuwait and the UAE among other countries.

An air bubble is seen as the first step towards the resumption of regular commercial scheduled international flights. Only a limited number of flights are allowed.

For the UK and Germany these air travel bubbles only apply to residents and Indian nationals. For France it only applies to Indian nations, for the USA it only applies to US nationals living in India, and for Canada it only applies to stranded Indian nationals. Details for the Maldives are unclear. There is confusion with differences in rules between what the Indian state says, what Indian embassies abroad say and what the various source countries say.

India is allowing in tourists and medical tourists from the above countries but in the past few medical tourists came from these countries.

Even from these air bubble countries, most passengers will have to quarantine for 14 days in India unless they can submit a negative RT- PCR test report on arrival. This test should be conducted within 96 hours prior to undertaking the journey. Passengers may be subject to another quarantine on the return home.

New safety measures will push the cost of treatment up by at least 30%, according to the Foundation of Healthcare & Wellness Promotion.