Medical tourists to Mashhad at record low due to coronavirus curbs

January 3, 2021 - 20:41

TEHRAN - The coronavirus pandemic is hitting hard at medical tourism of Mashhad, which used to be a thriving destination for health-care seekers in pre-pandemic times.

The number of international medical tourists to Mashhad has plunged 95 percent over the past months since the coronavirus pandemic started, IRNA quoted Esmaeil Khayyami, the health tourism manager of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, as saying on Sunday.

“The remaining five percent were typically patients who had entered the country before the corona epidemic, but after a while, the number of such clients also dropped to zero,” the official said.

“Since about two months ago, when it was possible to issue medical visas, such [health] patients have had the opportunity to enter the country and the city of Mashhad in a limited range…. in compliance with health protocols.”

The official had earlier announced medical tourists admitted to Mashhad hospitals and medical centers were from 55 different nationalities, more than 60% of whom are from Iraq and the rest are from Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, Khayyami said last July.

For the time being, 14 hospitals and three medical centers are offering special services to foreign patients in Mashhad, who are mostly visiting these centers for open-heart surgeries, vascular surgeries, general surgeries, orthopedics, skin, hair and beauty services, dental services, as well as women’s and infertility services.

After Tehran, Mashhad has the most medical tourists in the country, the official added.

Iranian hospitals admitted nearly 70,000 foreign patients over the Iranian calendar year 1397 (March 2018 – March 2019) and it made an economic contribution of around $1.2 billion to the country, according to the medical tourism department at the Ministry of Health.

In April 2018, the rotating presidency of the International Health Tourism Conference of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) was handed to the Islamic Republic for a three-year term.

Mohammad Jahangiri who presides over a national center for developing health tourism said in May 2018 that Iran can annually earn $7 billion in medical and health tourism, though the sector now brings in only one-seventh or even lesser of the sum.

Before the coronavirus puts everything on lockdown, Mashhad played host to thousands of travelers and pilgrims who come from various Iranian cities, neighboring countries, and even across the globe to visit the imposing, massive holy shrine complex of Imam Reza (AS), the eighth Imam of the Shia Muslims.

The Islamic Republic has set its goals to exceed its yearly medical travelers to around 2 million in [calendar year] 1404.

AFM/

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