In a shock decision, the UK authorities have refused to remove Thailand from its list of banned countries. Although the British Department of Transport has ended the bizarre traffic lights system, it has retained a list of 60-plus countries which Brits should avoid for Covid reasons. If they do insist on coming, then they must enter a 10/11 days of compulsory quarantine in an approved hotel on re-entry to UK at a cost of 2,285 pounds for an individual. Additionally, they must take a battery of pre-departure and post-arrival Covid tests.
Although several countries have been removed from the former UK red list – including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan – Thailand is not the only Southeast Asian country to be out of bounds for Brits. Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines are also listed as no-go areas, but Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam are regarded as sufficiently safe for travel, including holidays. Grant Shapps, the UK transport secretary, said the new system of grading got rid of amber-listed countries. “All countries are now either green or red,” he said.
The bad news for Thai travel comes as a shock as Thailand’s number of recorded infections has been on a downward trajectory whilst vaccinated numbers have been rising. However, the British authorities are not satisfied that the Bangkok authorities have the virus under control and remain doubtful that enough testing is occurring on a daily basis. One consequence of the continuing ban is that Thai citizens with valid visas will not be able to land in the UK as only British passport holders and permanent residents are permitted to enter before being ushered into a quarantine hotel.
The overall consequence for Brits determined to travel to Thailand, in spite of all, is a period of 14 days compulsory quarantine in a Thai hotel on arrival, unless they are part of the Sandbox program which restricts their movement for two weeks but is not a formal quarantine. At present, Sandbox operates only in Phuket and a few other southern islands. Returning to UK, Brits must then undergo another dose of expensive hotel quarantine plus ongoing health tests.
The British government can change the status of countries at any time. But a re-examination of Thailand’s prospects is not expected until mid-October at the earliest. The Tourist Authority of Thailand says it is very disappointed by the continuing British ban, but believes that Asian visitors will the first to enjoy Thai vacations as the country opens up again.