Uzbekistan Will Fund Treatment for Visitors Who Catch Covid-19

The Central Asian country is promising a US$3,000 handout to cover all medical expenses.

Dusk falls on the Kalyan Minaret and Mir-i-Arab Madrasa in Bukhara. (Photo: Mlenny/iStock)

History buffs planning to visit the UNESCO-listed Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva in the future now have even more reason to go. Uzbekistan’s president Shavkat Mirziyoyev recently announced a national guarantee that any foreign tourist on a group tour with a local operator will not need to pay for treatment should they become infected with Covid-19 during the trip. Instead, they will receive US$3,000 from the country’s Anti-Crisis Fund, matching the estimated amount required to cover the free medical care given to Uzbek citizens who test positive for the virus.

According to a statement from Sophie Ibbotson, Uzbekistan’s official tourism ambassador to the U.K., “The government is so confident that the new safety and hygiene measures being implemented across the tourism sector will protect tourists from COVID-19 that the president is prepared to put money where his mouth is: if you get COVID-19 on holiday in Uzbekistan, we will compensate you.”

This approach is in stark contrast to that taken by Cambodia, which has made headlines for detailing a user-pays model requiring all foreign visitors to deposit US$3,000 upon arrival and bear the full costs of medical treatment and quarantine accommodation. Though understandable from the perspective of a cash-strapped country with a weak healthcare system, the scheme will likely dissuade all but the most determined visitors.

Uzbekistan’s State Committee for Tourism is currently preparing a register of certified businesses that meet the new health and safety standards. If non-compliant hotels, restaurants, and other businesses are found to be a source of infections, they will have to pay for their customers’ medical treatment.

Uzbekistan resumed international flights on June 15 to four countries it deemed successful in their fight against the virus: China, South Korea, Japan, and Israel. At the time, only certain travelers could enter without restrictions, including foreign diplomats and their families, investors, medical tourists, and returning Uzbek citizens. The Central Asian nation is now looking to lift curbs on general visitors, a move that could happen as soon as the end of this month.

But residents of Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and the European Union will have to wait a little longer as those regions remain in the yellow category, which calls for the enforcement of a 14-day period of self-isolation, most likely in a hotel. Countries with higher infection rates such as the UAE, Turkey, Iran, and Russia have been placed in the red category; anyone traveling from airports in those areas will have to be quarantined for two weeks at a government-designated camp.

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