Mexico maintains inbound medical travel

Despite border closures, high Covid rates and US advice to avoid, medical tourism to Mexico has continued.

Mexico has never fully closed its borders, and has no stated intention to bring in rules on vaccination or testing for any inbound medical tourist. All entrants are however required to complete an online form to say that they do not have Covid-19. The government is also against the principle of vaccine passports.

In many ways this is a significant public safety gamble for Mexico. Most medical tourists are Americans, the majority from border and southern states where not only the percentage of vaccinated citizens is low, but there is also a high number who refuse to be vaccinated. Covid rates remain high in some US states such as Florida and Texas where the state governors are against prevention measures taken in other states.

Not all states in Mexico are happy with the national approach. City and state officials may enact their own prevention measures for dealing with Covid-19, and there is confusion and tension on the differences between local and national policy.

Mazatlán has a new rule that all residents and visitors must present proof of vaccination or a negative test no older than eight days old to enter restaurants, hotels and shops. Cancun, a leading medical tourism destination for Americans travelling to Mexico, has cancelled plans to require proof of vaccination to enter businesses and has only applied them to hospitality employees.

According to the World Health Organisation, by August 2021, Mexico had 2.86 million confirmed Covid cases and 241,000 deaths. Local sources suggest the real figures are much higher.

While the U.S. government has extended the land border closure with Mexico until August 21st, this does not prevent American tourists from flying to Mexico. Millions of American tourists have visited Mexico during the pandemic, making the most of easy entry requirements, close proximity and direct flights from every major city in the US. Even the land border closures have exceptions for medical tourists.

Even though Mexico is open, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Americans against going. COVID-19 levels are very high, the agency says, and even fully vaccinated travellers could be at risk of getting or spreading the virus.

Agencies and clinics in Mexico are again promoting how much people can save by heading south of the border for dentistry, cosmetic surgery, or even a major operation like a hip replacement.