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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans are still traveling to other countries for medical procedures, despite safety concerns and travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic, The New York Times reports.

Why it matters: Medical tourism took a hit last year, but not a fatal one, especially after the pandemic cost millions of Americans their jobs and their health insurance.

The big picture: Pre-pandemic, millions of Americans traveled to other countries for savings of between 40 to 80% on medical treatments, according to the global medical tourism guide Patients Beyond Borders.

The state of play: Some countries that have closed their borders to tourists still allow essential travel, which includes medical procedures.

  • Mexico and Costa Rica have become the most popular destinations for dental care, cosmetic surgery and prescription medicines.
  • Thailand, India and South Korea draw in patients for more complex procedures including orthopedics, cardiovascular, cancer and fertility treatment.

Go deeper: Even insurers will sometimes foot the bill for "pharma tourism."

Go deeper

Updated 23 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Omicron variant lifts Moderna's stock price — CDC strengthens COVID booster recommendation.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: Federal court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for health workers in 10 states — NYC urges masks indoors "at all times" regardless of vaccination status — New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.

Cancer death rates drop but Black Americans still face highest risk

Adapted from the National Cancer Institute; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios 

There's some good news in 2020: Cancer death rates have been falling overall, and the gap between racial and ethnic groups has been narrowing.

Yes, but: Decades of systemic racism and the structures developed under it continue to limit the ability of Americans to benefit equally from cancer advances, some medical experts tell Axios, as seen by Black Americans who've had the highest death rate from cancer for 40 years. And the pandemic is expected to exacerbate the problem further.