This is a blog from Grahame Beecham, who recently returned to the Uk for a funeral and outlines his experiences.
I have lived and worked in Thailand for nearly 15 years now and have travelled back to the UK twice a year over that period, until this year with the Covid situation. It was not that I couldn’t get into the UK it was that I couldn’t get out of Thailand, as Thailand immediately closed their borders. At that time, I believed this to be a knee jerk reaction and overkill to the situation but if you look at the figures Thailand has done an amazing job and for the last four or five months no cases of covid (other than a couple here and there). For those of us living in Thailand life has been pretty much as it always was and I am so thankful that I have been living in Thailand through this period. If you are retired with your pension, i.e. not dependent on earning money then it has been an amazing time with no tourists. The golf courses are empty and there are some amazing deals with Hotels around Thailand so it has been a great time to travel around the country.
We went through an initial lockdown and curfew period which along with the borders closed worked, unlike the UK who couldn’t decide what they should do. Speaking with close family members and friends throughout they confirmed that it was rarely ever clear what measures they were meant to be undertaking.
This has of course come at a great cost to Thailand; the tourist industry has been devastated and if you worked in this sector then there have been great hardships, however the rest of Thailand has continued on as usual with shops and all businesses open, so the overall damage to the economy will, I believe, be less than the damage done to the UK economy. Without doubt there will be businesses closing down but a majority of the small Ma and Pa shops will survive along with gyms, markets and shopping malls.
Four weeks ago, I had to return to the UK for a funeral (not covid) so it gave me the opportunity to see for myself how both countries are handling entering the country and make a comparison based on actual personal experience (rather than relying on what the media and their sensationalism is saying).
I went on line and booked a return trip with Emirates to London. The only regulation for me to enter the UK was to fill a form in on line 24 hours before arrival in the UK: all basic stuff, name etc. where you are staying in the UK and contact telephone number. Also a box to tick if you think that you do not need to self-isolate for 2 weeks on arrival in the UK, which I ticked. The reason that I ticked it is that Thailand is on the list of safe countries so no self-isolation is required, however, due to the fact that I transferred planes in Dubai I read that I would in fact need to self-isolate. So, I wanted to put my case when questioned at Heathrow why I thought that I didn’t need to self-Isolate and I would also put forward my case with regards to attending the funeral and visiting family etc. etc. On arrival at Heathrow and walking towards immigration the signs were everywhere “Have you filled your form in” and “Stop here if you haven’t completed your form” so I really thought that this is going to be slow through immigration and you will be questioned etc. On arrival in the immigration hall, I went straight through the automatic passport gate, collected my bag and walked out into the UK to travel how I pleased, taxi, bus, train etc. As it happened, I had arranged for my friend to pick me up as he was in level 2 lockdown or some such number and told me that he was allowed to pick me up. That really was it and I was shocked, as all I had seen for the weeks and months previous to my trip was that the UK was like a war zone with hospitals overflowing and the NHS being unable to cope.
On arrival in the UK, I had to start planning my return trip as I knew that to be able to get back into Thailand would not be easy, I knew that I qualified to be able to return as I have a work permit, married to a Thai national etc. but there would be a lot of hoops to jump through. I had to apply via the Thai Embassy website to get a certificate of entry which meant supplying them all the documents required, including my booking for a quarantine hotel in Bangkok for 15 days on arrival, at a cost of around 2,000 pounds (this can vary on level of hotel you book). With my certificate of entry approved I was then required to have a clear covid test within 72 hours of flying and a doctors “fit to fly certificate”, my 30 day insurance for 100,000 USD to cover the cost of treatment if I contrtacted covid while in quarantine in Thailand, plus a couple of other declaration forms filled in. With all this in hand I returned to Thailand.
On arrival in Bangkok airport, you are met by around 200 people all wearing protective clothing, some in full Hazchem suits, army, police, immigration and medical staff, you are marched, spaced apart, to a sitting area with the chairs all spaced out and one at a time go forward to have all of your papers checked, temperature taken and questioned about your health, any fever, cough etc. You are then led to immigration and passport control, again all staff in protective clothing, then on to collect your bag and led out into arrivals, where again everyone suited up. Then someone leads you to your own minibus where you sit all alone behind a driver who is dressed in a full Hazchem suit and separated from you by a plastic screen and driven through Bangkok to your chosen quarantine hotel. Taken around the back of the hotel, met by a nurse in full protective clothing, who checks you in and tells you what the procedure is during your 15 day stay: do not leave your room, report your temperature night and morning by text (thermometer supplied in your room) covid test after 6 days and another 7 days later, if all clear you get your all-clear certificate and you can travel home. No alcohol is allowed to be ordered or kept in your room (as they are worried about people getting drunk and escaping) and all meals are left outside of your room on disposable plates with plastic cutlery which all has to be bagged and left outside your door for removal. So you never see anyone, its like being in 5 star solitary confinement.
So, the difference between the 2 countries could not be more different, the UK talks the talk and Thailand walks the walk as Americans would say. The UK government want to tell you how good they are and what they are doing to save us all, but in fact they are actually doing nothing and Thai government are just doing it: you either follow the rules or you don’t get in. Simple.
I know where I would rather be living through this crazy period of time and no doubt for the next couple of years before things settle down, if in fact they ever do. I will put up with 15 days quarantine knowing that the sunshine, beaches, golf courses, restaurants etc. await me on my return any day, and the first thing I will do is have a BBQ with a beer and laze in my swimming pool in a property that would cost me 4 times as much in the UK and watch the TV with the UK government telling everyone in the UK how lucky they are, that they are in charge and sorting everything out and keeping them all safe and well, yeah right.