The British prime minister has announced that it is still too early to predict when Brits may be able to travel abroad for “non-compulsory” journeys. Under rules currently in force, it is illegal for UK passport holders to vacation overseas, although they can book flights on an at-your-own-risk basis.
Boris Johnson said that all such holidays are banned until May 17 at the earliest, but promised that a traffic-lights system was on the cards. Countries would be labeled red, amber or green, based on their vaccination record, rates of infection, emerging new variants and laboratory models known as genomic sequencing. Green-labeled countries might be visited without the need for quarantine on return, although Covid tests would still be needed before and after the holiday.
The chances of Thailand being included on the green list for the next few months are regarded as slim. A mass vaccination program in Thailand has not yet begun, except in Phuket where a pilot scheme is under way. New variants are still in a problem in Bangkok where recently-discovered clusters have now led to the closure of some 200 bars and clubs. Random testing is not used widely in the country, although test-and-trace policies in districts where a virus outbreak has occurred have mostly been very positive.
Other Southeast Asian countries are also having problems. Cambodia, Thailand’s neighbor, has introduced a curfew and lockdown in the capital Phnom Penh, whilst soaring infection rates in the Philippines have led to a total travel ban from there to the UK and other countries. Virus outbreaks in Myanmar have been complicated by the incipient civil war which has led to homeless people crowding the Thai land borders.
The lack of clarity in the current British response to holiday travel was attacked by Clive Warren, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, who said it was “beyond disappointing”. The travel consultancy PC Agency said the government can’t continue “just kicking the can down the road,” adding that hundreds of thousands of jobs were at risk.
Meanwhile, the British health authorities are working on digital and non-digital ways of ascertaining the Covid status of individuals, but the government has not so far committed itself to any app. Most travel gurus believe that vaccine passports of one sort or another will become compulsory for travel before the end of the year. The Thai prime minister has ordered a top committee to examine the same subject and is awaiting its recommendations.