Many of you were directly impacted by the global health crisis caused by the coronavirus. It has also greatly impacted expatriate departure decisions which were in many cases postponed or cancelled. We will hereby provide an overview of the direct and indirect consequences that the quarantine measures had on a significant number of projects. We will also share our opinion on the role that any international health insurer can – and should – play in this period of great uncertainty.
To give a little bit of context, the epidemic that broke out in December 2019 in a Wuhan market in China rapidly spread across most continents. In March 2020, the World Health Organization qualified it as pandemic. During the first weeks of March, even though the situation in China seemed to gradually improve, most European countries implemented quarantine measures, which has saved hundreds of lives. Since the epidemic seems to be receding, many countries have reopened their borders in order to support their economies. So far, the virus has infected more than 15 million people worldwide and caused 636 000 deaths (confirmed cases), whilst many citizens are facing restrictions on their travel and life plans abroad (orange and red/black list countries).
Should you wish to access the latest information, we kindly invite you to visit our regularly updated page about COVID-19.
What was the impact of coronavirus outbreak on expatriates’ lives?
Many reports and surveys, such as Myexpat.com who analysed the impacts on French expatriates, have analysed the behaviour of expats during this major health crisis. Expats have usually been able to keep their spirits up! In almost 80% of cases, expats remained confident about their financial and housing-situation, despite the potential economy crunch that many predicted. A vast majority of them (close to 80%) decided not to return home, because they felt safe in their host country.
Most expatriates clearly stated that they felt safe when proper measures were taken by local authorities in their host country. According to the Wall Street Journal, a large number of the 9 million American expatriates were actually relieved to be out of the American territory during the quarantine period. For expatriates residing in Spain, the situation was different. Indeed, even though the country is one of the preferred expat destinations in Europe, it was heavily impacted by the epidemic and the subsequent economic crisis.
The situation in Singapore was particularly interesting. In this highly cosmopolitan country with very large expat community, authorities rapidly decided to implement strict rules to contain the epidemic. Without these measures, the consequences of the epidemic on its population would have likely been much worse. Expats had to comply with the same quarantine and social distancing measures such as LOA (“Leave on Absence”). The LOA quarantine was imposed to all residents arriving from abroad, as well as SHN (“Stay-Home Notice”), a mandatory COVID-19 test for all travellers from abroad.
Almost all international student projects were also impacted by the coronavirus epidemic. A study has shown that more than half of students have postponed their expatriation until 2021, and 15% have simply decided to cancel to their aspiration of studying abroad.
Furthermore, it has been proven that the main motivation of expats to leave – or stay in – their country of residence was evenly linkeded to their professional situation (stable or unstable employment, opportunities for future development, etc.) and to the proximity of their families and friends.
Healing the economic life
Although a return to “business as usual” is not yet foreseen, governments are trying to revive their economies in order to lower the risks of bankruptcies, unemployment and heavy tax revenue losses. Many country borders have started to re-open , while other countries decided to create “bubbles”, which are intended to facilitate travel, without imposing a quarantine on travellers. This is notably the case in Denmark and Norway, as well as Australia and New Zealand. Singapore, China, South Korea and Canada are currently in discussion to form a common “travel bubble”. These countries have, for the most part, successfully controlled and contained the epidemic which has allowed to speed up return to normal life. This is unfortunately snot possible at this point for other countries such as USA, for example.
Many expats are also considering returning to their home country for multiple reasons: proximity to their loved ones, financial reasons, or simply because they are reorganising their life and possibly ending their expatriation. Massive expats returning home can lead to other consequences for countries like Dubai, where 90% of the population is composed of foreign employees. According to Oxford Economics, the exodus of expatriates would result in the loss of up to 900,000 jobs in the United Arab Emirates.
Foyer Global Health remains by your side during this health and economic crisis
Every day brings good and bad news on the coronavirus front line. We are fully aware of the consequences of this unusual situation has on any expatriation projects.
We provide our clients with unlimited telemedicine consultation so that they have access to a general practitioner from the comfort of their home, 24/7. Telehealth is widely used by expatriates who prefer not to go out to visit a doctor. This is particularly convenient for expats that are not fluent in the local language. Tele-consultation, also known as telemedicine, allows you to get a reliable expert opinion on any general medical problems you may be facing (blood tests, skin related issues, etc.).
If your expatriation project is likely to change, if you have any questions related to a contractual amendment, or for any other questions related to expatriation and international health insurance, we invite you to contact us directly via WhatsApp +352 621 393 180 (English and German) and +352 621 585 033 (French), or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.