Travellers from Thailand must quarantine for 14 days when entering the UK. Clarification late on Friday night is disappointing news for Thai authorities as the kingdom, earlier in the week, was green-lighted by the European Union. The decision appears to have taken no account of Thailand’s exemplary performance in fighting the Covid 19 threat at such a heavy cost to the public and the economy which has been left devastated.
Contrary to earlier authoritative reports, it emerged on Friday night that the United Kingdom has red-lighted passengers from Thailand when it comes to an exemption from quarantine on entering that country from July 10th under the UK’s new traffic lights quarantine system. The decision places Thailand, like much of Asia including China and the United States, in the same boat when it comes to the assessment of risk under the British government’s scheme.
There has been a certain amount of confusion and consternation in Bangkok when it became clear late on Friday night that the United Kingdom had failed to give the green light to Thai travellers visiting Britain as part of the UK government’s new approach to health controls in respect of the Covid 19 virus as that country throws open its borders to trade and travel.
Instead, Thailand has been given the red light placing it on the lowest tier of countries along with China, the United States and Brazil.
Authoritative reports, only hours before, suggested Thailand would be green-lighted with no quarantine
Earlier authoritative press reports, including such sources as the Financial Times, had expressly suggested that Thailand was on the list to be green-lighted.
In addition, during the week, the European Union listed Thailand as one of only fifteen countries from which passengers would not be required to quarantine and could travel freely within its borders including the Schengen area with the appropriate visa.
UK scrapped travel bridge and tourist bubble concepts in June in favour of a simpler system
Weeks ago, it was announced that the UK was doing away with concepts such as travel bubbles and air bridges replacing them with a simple traffic light system.
The UK has also maintained flight links to most countries, at this time, including Thailand, allowing its nationals to fly home through a limited number of commercial flights.
It placed a ban on non-essential outgoing flights which is now due to be lifted.
Under this new regime, a green light for any country means that passengers are not subject to any quarantine requirement. Among these countries are New Zealand, Australia and Taiwan.
Amber means that there has been a deal or arrangement brokered between the two countries to facilitate travel and ongoing economic interests while limiting the health threat.
Passengers from countries with red status are required to quarantine for 14 days.
Among those countries placed in the amber category have been some European nations hardest hit by the virus including Italy, Spain and France.
Very few Asian countries have not been given the red light from Whitehall except for Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam and Hong Kong
On Saturday, one analyst pointed out that very few Asian countries are on the green list.
The four notable exception are Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand’s growing rival for both tourism and trade, Vietnam.
The traffic light system is part of the UK’s strategy to reopen the country to trade and tourism as it faces one of the sharpest economic fall-offs in the long mercantile history of the country.
The system is being implemented by Whitehall civil servants as Britain attempts to reopen its vital trading links and commercial interests.
It was announced by Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, in June and comes into effect on July 10th.
UK plans already embroiled in controversy with Leicester locked down and Greece halting flights
It has already been hit with controversy in the UK where a second wave has broken out even as the British public go about taking summer holidays. Many people are desperate to travel and holiday on sunnier shores.
An outbreak in the city of Leicester has seen that city and the area surrounding it, in the heart of England, shut down again.
Even as the traffic light system was announced, Greece, a green-lighted country, announced that it was halting all inbound flights from the UK for several weeks as the European nation is adamant to protect its strategically vital tourism industry which it is carefully nursing back to life.
The Greek government has reopened the country after the pandemic swept through Europe with careful and practical measures. It still considers that the disease poses a threat both to its population and its lucrative tourism trade.
Observers trying to understand the UK’s decision
In Thailand, observers are trying to understand why the kingdom with one of the most impressive performances in fighting the virus, in a similar range to New Zealand and even Taiwan, has been relegated to being a red-lighted country.
The quarantine requirement applies to anyone who is a passenger from Thailand or who has travelled through Thailand.
However, the decision is made all the more curious by travel advice from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office which, as of the 4th July, finds Thailand a safe destination for non-essential travel except for Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and Southern Songkhla province near Thailand’s border with Malaysia.
One explanation is that UK authorities are not sure of the threat posed by Thailand along with nearly every other country in Asia due to the proximity to China.
Thailand has only seen 58 deaths from Covid 19 and has taken decisive and costly steps to prevent the outbreak in the kingdom.
The country is now well past the 28 day incubation period for the disease with the last case of local transmission seen on May 25th, 40 days ago.
UK quarantine is self-enforced with monitoring
The brighter news is that under the UK’s quarantine scheme, travellers are not taken into state quarantine or expected to pay large sums of money to stay in a government-approved hotel. They are subject, however, to monitoring at their place of stay.
The UK government is calling this 14 days in self-isolation or self-quarantine.
As well as the green listed countries, the Republic Of Ireland is also exempted as it is part of a common travel area with the United Kingdom under the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 as amended.
Reports from the UK suggest that the organisation of the scheme, at this point, is somewhat shambolic as police have not yet been briefed on what action to take against those who violate the new quarantine orders which will be effective only 6 days from now.