The British health secretary, Matt Hancock, has told Brits that holidays this summer should certainly not be taken in countries labeled amber by the government’s traffic lights travel guide. These off-limits countries include the popular European destinations of Italy, France, Greece and Spain as well as Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Mr Hancock said he wanted his fellow countrymen to vacation at home or to choose one of the 12 green-labeled countries which include the popular and cheap Portugal where huge bookings are already resulting in six hours’ delay at British airports as holiday-starved Brits line up for overdue pleasure.
Many of the other green countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, are not accepting tourists whilst Singapore insists on prior government approval and a substantial 30,000 Singapore dollar insurance bond. Green-listed countries also include the Faroe and Falkland Islands and Iceland which are not famous as beach resorts and lack direct flights.
Brits who do decide to visit Thailand, for any reason, currently face many disincentives. They require a certificate of entry from the London-based Thai embassy, health clearance and Covid insurance worth at least 3 million baht. On arrival in Bangkok courtesy of an expensive semi-commercial flight, they are subject to a self-paid 14 days hotel quarantine.
For the return journey to UK, Brits need Covid tests before departure and on arrival as well as a 10 days self-quarantine at their home. Visits to red-listed countries, which currently include the Philippines, require hotel quarantine on return to UK at a cost of 1,750 pounds. To all intents and purposes, trips to Southeast Asian countries by Brits are currently ruled out by the sheer expense.
UK travel agents say a further problem is that if Thailand turned from amber to red in the British categorization, compulsory quarantine on returning would kick in immediately. Vacationers might not be covered by their insurance as they would be accused of ignoring official government advice.
Thailand’s main hopes for a foreign visitor boost this year lie in the Sandbox idea, whereby fully vaccinated foreigners would avoid quarantine on arrival here, or in travel bubbles with Asian countries such as China and Japan. But it is far from clear that either route will actually see the light of day: Thailand’s mass vaccination policy has so far inoculated less than two percent of the native population and virtually no foreign residents.
Moreover, national and provincial restrictions mean that formerly popular hotspots such as Pattaya have very few attractions as bars, clubs and all entertainment venues are shuttered. However, it is possible to dine in restaurants in an alcohol-free environment and jog up and down the beach without mingling.