Concerns are rising that the sudden inclusion of Mexico on the UK’s list of banned destinations could soon apply to Thailand as well. The UK has a traffic lights system of grading countries green, amber or no-go red according to the government’s assessment of Covid risk. Starting August 8, anyone travelling from Mexico to the UK will be subject on landing to 10 days compulsory quarantine in a state-recognized hotel at a cost of 2,285 pounds for a single traveller.
There are about 6,000 British tourists in Mexico, according to a report in the Evening Standard, and the announcement on August 4 gave only four days’ notice before implementation. Panic then broke out in Mexican holiday resorts as Brits desperately tried to change their return flights in a hurry, often with a supplement of an extra 2,000 pounds. But thousands are still stuck in Mexico, fuming at what they perceive as the British government’s incompetence and insensitivity. Transport Minister Grant Shapps has denied the accusations, arguing that the traffic lights actually simplify international travelling.
Fears that Thailand could suffer the same fate draw on the fact that the Philippines have been on the red list since the grading system was introduced. Although the Philippines has more known infections and Covid-related deaths than Thailand, the Land of Smiles is rapidly catching up. In the last 24 hours, for example, Thailand posted around 21,000 new infections compared with 8,000 in the neighboring archipelago. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Philippines has 10 percent of its population fully vaccinated, compared with 6 percent in Thailand, even though the former has a larger population.
Currently, Thailand is graded amber, or medium risk. Fully vaccinated Brits are not required to undertake any kind of quarantine once they return home, but must take PCR tests before and after their flight. British government travel advice has now deleted former warnings that travel to Thailand is “discouraged” – apart from to the secessionist-hit southern provinces. It does include the strong suggestion that visitors buy insurance in advance, but that is superfluous commentary since medical cover of at least US$100,000 is required to obtain a certificate of entry from the Thai embassy in London.
Warnings that Thailand could well switch to red at any time are loud and clear. Even the office of the Thai Tourist Authority in UK warned about the possibility last week. Mark Green, who heads a travel consortium, said British tourists have led the field in supporting the Phuket Sandbox, but probably not for much longer. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has described the UK’s entire traffic light system as “hugely damaging” and is calling for it to be abandoned.
Virginia Messina, spokesperson for WTTC, said, “What’s needed now is a watertight policy enabling those who have been fully jabbed to travel freely and not to have to isolate on return. Those who are not fully vaccinated should be able to travel with proof of a negative test, as we are seeing in the European Union.” Well said Virginia.