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Malaysia Cuts Medical Tourism Goal on Tighter Border Control

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 9/18/2020 Yantoultra Ngui
a chair sitting in front of a building: A hospital bed and chairs sits in a corridor at the Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. About 14 million people spent $68 billion on medical tourism in 2016, according to consulting firm PwC. A growing number are Westerners headed to developing countries for cosmetic surgery or dental work, procedures that are less expensive and invasive than major operations and often aren’t covered by insurance. © Bloomberg A hospital bed and chairs sits in a corridor at the Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. About 14 million people spent $68 billion on medical tourism in 2016, according to consulting firm PwC. A growing number are Westerners headed to developing countries for cosmetic surgery or dental work, procedures that are less expensive and invasive than major operations and often aren’t covered by insurance.

(Bloomberg) -- 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 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.

a bedroom with a bed and a mirror: Beds sit in a patient ward at the Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. About 14 million people spent $68 billion on medical tourism in 2016, according to consulting firm PwC. A growing number are Westerners headed to developing countries for cosmetic surgery or dental work, procedures that are less expensive and invasive than major operations and often aren’t covered by insurance. © Bloomberg Beds sit in a patient ward at the Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. About 14 million people spent $68 billion on medical tourism in 2016, according to consulting firm PwC. A growing number are Westerners headed to developing countries for cosmetic surgery or dental work, procedures that are less expensive and invasive than major operations and often aren’t covered by insurance.

“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 Warns of Stricter Measures If Coronavirus Spread Rises

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.

(Updates with share movement in seventh paragraph.)

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