The news that the European Union Council has now declared Thailand a red or high risk coronavirus country is dire but not unexpected. The steady virus spread in Thailand means that there were 97.3 infections per 100,000 people here over the past fortnight, according to published figures. This result is one of the most worryingly high in the region.
The EU ruling means that non-essential travel to Thailand is actively discouraged. Those returning EU nationals will now face a passenger locator form, PCR tests before and after their flight and up to 10 days self-quarantining in their own homes. Virtually all EU citizens flying to Thailand will already have had complete vaccination in order to qualify for the Sandbox initiative in Phuket and Koh Samui, which does not require two weeks’ isolation in a hotel room on a Thai island.
Although the latest development does not actually forbid EU citizens from visiting Thailand, it is obviously a disincentive. Additionally, Thais are not now permitted to visit the EU unless they are fully vaccinated and can demonstrate “essential” reasons for travel. Also in the EU’s red danger zone are Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines. Indonesia is graded extra red, and entry in to the EU from there is prohibited for virtually everyone.
Meanwhile, all travel eyes are focused on the UK which currently has Thailand at amber or medium risk. From July 19, fully vaccinated Brits will be able to travel from Thailand (and many other destinations) without being subjected to any form of quarantine. But if Thailand were suddenly to switch to red, there would be a compulsory 10 days sojourn of isolation in a UK hotel at a personal cost of 1,750 pounds and a serious risk of losing personal insurance cover.
British travel agents are bracing for the red signal in coming days. Graham Watson, a London agent specializing in group travel, said, “Brits have been supporting the Thai Sandbox more than any other nationality. But if Thailand turns red, that will be the end of it from a British viewpoint.” He pointed out that the actual daily rate of infections and the weekly death totals in Thailand now exceeded those in the Philippines which is already graded red.