The UK’s latest revision to the traffic lights travel system has moved Thailand from neutral amber to danger red. This means that from 0.400 hours on Monday August 30, only British nationals and permanent residents will be allowed to enter the UK and will be compulsory quarantined in managed hotel accommodation. There is no exemption for vaccinated Brits or those on Phuket-based Sandbox holidays. But Thai passport holders and all other foreign nationals here will be refused boarding on planes to UK from that date until further notice.
The London-based Department of Transport said that the inclusion of Thailand in the red list reflected the early August spike in infections and inadequate genomic surveillance. That, the Department claimed, makes it difficult to spot outbreaks of new or existing variants of concern, especially the Delta or Indian type. The British move will bitterly disappoint the Thai hospitality industry, especially as recovery rates have been exceeding infected numbers in recent days. Brits have been the main European supporters of Thailand’s Sandbox initiative in the last few weeks.
There will now be a desperate attempt by both British and Thai nationals to beat the deadline by trying to obtain flights to UK at very short notice. Those that succeed will likely pay hundreds or even thousands of pounds to change their tickets, as happened in Mexico which suddenly changed to red earlier this month. But many will be left behind. Others may try to obtain flights with an indirect routing to the UK, but it is a serious offence there deliberately to hide having been present in a red country anytime in the last fortnight.
The newly-announced rules will mean that all British nationals and permanent residents, from the due date, will need to have a negative PCR- test in Thailand, 72 hours before departure, and book and pay for their UK quarantine hotel for 10 days at a cost of 2,285 pounds. There is no exemption for those doubly vaccinated. They must also fill in a passenger locator form and, on arrival in UK, take two further Covid tests on or before days two and eight – unless they are under five years old.
As announced, Thai citizens – unless they are dual passport holders or hold permanent residency – will not be allowed to enter UK until the red status is changed. The next scheduled date for traffic light revisions is September 16, although announcements can be made at any time. All eyes will be on Thailand’s progress in the next three weeks in reducing recorded infections, achieving more vaccinations and publicly researching Covid variants.
The latest travel rules mean that Thailand joins the Philippines as the two red countries in south east Asia. Cambodia and Vietnam are amber, whilst Singapore and Australia are green, but none is issuing visas for holidaymakers. Marlene Lipton, part of the UK Travel and Tour Consortium, said, “The UK traffic light grading system is full of ambiguities and contradictions. The Thai authorities are predicting that the infection rates have peaked, whilst the UK thinks the situation is deteriorating.” She advised all those affected to check their holiday insurance details as those trapped in Thailand now face much bigger costs to get home.