Look inwards after medical tourism hit

A man undergoes Covid-19 testing.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Over the past weeks, Kenya has been recording low numbers of new Covid-19 infections.
  • Globocan 2018 data shows Kenyans spend over Sh8 billion annually, seeking care for various forms of cancer, let alone other ailments, in India, South Africa and other countries.


As Covid-19 steadily made its presence felt across the globe, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a global pandemic. Soon, countries banned international travel to curb its spread. This unprecedented move halted operations in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world but it was for the greater good.

One of the sectors that continue to bear the brunt is medical tourism. In recent years, the number of Kenyans going abroad for specialised medical treatment has been on the rise. This is attributed to the top quality of healthcare in these destinations that is more or less comparable to the standards in Europe and North America.

Globocan 2018 data shows Kenyans spend over Sh8 billion annually, seeking care for various forms of cancer, let alone other ailments, in India, South Africa and other countries.

They were plunged into uncertainty and had to seek medical care closer to home as they waited for borders to be reopened. But with many countries easing travel restrictions, they are now free to catch the first available flight.

Covid-19 infections

Over the past weeks, Kenya has been recording low numbers of new Covid-19 infections. India, by contrast, is second to the United States in the number of new infections while South Africa, which, from the outset, tops the continent on this front, has not resumed international flights, putting Kenyan patients at a crossroads.

But flying to countries deemed to be high-risk is like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. The situation is made more worrisome by the fact that Covid-19 has been implicated in worsening risk in patients with underlying conditions, many of whom go abroad for treatment.

There is, indeed, a growing need for the public and private healthcare providers to invest heavily in state-of-the-art facilities and equip personnel with highly specialised training to ensure Kenyans access the best healthcare at home.

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