The UK government’s decision to move Thailand from neutral amber to danger red in its idiosyncratic traffic lights travel system has doomed the immediate travel prospects of Thais with valid UK visas needing a flight. There are believed to be about 300 in this urgent category, mostly tourists and business travellers. Under the red signal which came into effect on 30 August, only British and Irish nationals and Thais with permanent residency (not a temporary visa) are allowed to enter the UK. The British embassy in Bangkok has also confirmed that some higher level Thai students are also eligible to fly as they do have residency rights.
The red signal news was announced late last week and led to a panic amongst British vacationers on the Sandbox initiative in Phuket who tried to book emergency flights back home to avoid the 2,285 pounds fee for the 10 days compulsory hotel quarantine on landing in UK. However, they found that rebooking at short notice incurred extra flight charges running into hundreds, even thousands, of pounds. The British government’s move to change Thailand’s Covid status was mostly unexpected as infection numbers here are falling.
VFS Global in Bangkok, the agency handling visa applications, has sent a memo to all Thais waiting to collect their UK visa that they should not do so until “further advised”. The next scheduled announcements for the UK traffic lights system will be on September 15, though there is no guarantee Thailand will be moved back to amber at that time. The UK department of Transport bases its decisions not just on the overall number of infections and recoveries, but on testing procedures and ability to handle variants of the pesky virus. Many travel gurus expect an October relaxation if all goes well in Thailand.
Miss Oy Boonayan, girlfriend of a British Sandboxer on vacation, said she had obtained a UK visitor visa but was now unable to fly because of the latest restrictions. Her boyfriend was also stuck in Thailand as he was poorly insured and did not have the funds to pay for quarantine in London. She said he had contacted a crisis line run by the British embassy and attempts were being made to contact relatives in England for extra cash. Oy said her own visa would soon run out and she had contacted VFS to find out if she could have an extension.
Wealthier Thais with a valid UK visa are exploring the possibility of taking an indirect routing and then flying to Britain from a non-red country. The Department of Transport rules state that anyone arriving in UK must not have been in a red country in the last 10 days with stiff penalties for anyone caught telling lies. The UK Border Agency has said that anyone arriving with a passport from a red country, irrespective of routing, is subject to additional scrutiny. Whatever that means.