Many of the world’s uber-rich are reportedly buying “pandemic passports” as insurance policies against strict border lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

While the rest of us languish under tough lockdown restrictions, much wealthier people are snapping up multiple citizenships in desirable destinations they can flee to see out the pandemic.

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Citizenship firm Henley and Partners has seen a surge in people applying for new nationalities – some of which come with multi-million price tags – in the first three months of 2020, according to Robb Report.

The reason for the interest is to escape border lockdowns by seeking refuge in more appealing countries that currently only allow access to permanent residents and citizens.

An Italian multi-millionaire told Robb Report he was critical of how Italy’s government had handled the coronavirus crisis.

“We want to know there is a safe place, with good medical services, that the whole family can go to at short notice if we need to,” he said. “Only citizenship can guarantee that.”

The most interest has been in countries such as Australia, Austria, Switzerland, Malta, Portugal, Cyprus, Montenegro, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Antigua, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, which all offer citizenship or permanent residency in exchange for direct donations or investments in property and business, according to Robb Report.

The price of these “pandemic passports” can be as little as $156,000 per person in the Caribbean through to as much as $12 million in Austria.

“Investment migration has shifted from being about living the life you want in terms of holidays and business travel to a more holistic vision that includes healthcare and safety,” Dr Christian Kalin from Henley and Partners told Robb Report.

Countries such as Australia might be seen as attractive because of the strong health care system and its success in flattening the curve of transmissions. The UK, which offers residency for investments, has been criticised for its handing of the crisis and the under-resourced National Health Service.

Dr Kalin said fees and taxes countries earn from pandemic passports could be a way to replenish the coffers as strained governments raise funds for emergency responses and bailout programs during the pandemic.

“Take Antigua,” he told Robb Report. “It depends on tourism and now there is none and there won’t be for some time. It needs fresh sources of funds. Citizenship by investment is one.”