Uzbekistan is reopening to international tourists with a big promise: if they become infected with COVID-19 during their trip, they will receive US$3000 in compensation.
‘We want to reassure tourists they can come to Uzbekistan’, Sophie Ibbotson, Uzbekistan’s tourism ambassador to the UK, said in a statement. ‘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’.
The national guarantee protects travellers who visit Uzbekistan on a group tour that uses a local tour operator, and $3000 is equivalent to the cost of medical care that citizens would receive in the country if they became infected. The government has launched a voluntary certification scheme for accommodation and other tourist businesses to meet new hygienic guidelines. Companies that don’t meet the standards and are found to be a source of infection will be required to pay the cost of customers’ medical treatment. Arrivals from China, Israel, Japan and South Korea will be allowed entry, but European and British arrivals must spend 14 days in isolation.
Uzbekistan’s decision to quickly lockdown in mid-March means the country has one of the world’s lowest coronavirus fatality rates, with just 19 reported deaths in a population of almost 33 million. The country is famous for its ornately tiled Silk Road architecture, and tourism has hugely increased in the last few years thanks to a new visa-free scheme that’s available to citizens of more than 80 countries.
As countries around the world begin to reopen their borders to international visitors, they are imposing their own conditions for entry. In contrast to Uzbekistan’s policy, Cambodia announced it was taking the opposite track, requiring visitors to pay a US$3000 deposit upon arrival as well as fees for a COVID-19 test and meals and accommodation while waiting for the results.