In early 2020 when the true realisation of how bad Covid-19 could be we very quickly saw a lockdown and heavy travel restrictions in both Australia and Thailand. This fast action has seen the levels of Covid-19 infection in both countries kept very low, however it has come at a very high economic cost and impacted thousands of businesses.
I know personally I was looking for things to improve significantly in 2021 and thought I was being realistic in thinking it would take at least six months to see travel restrictions ease. The idea of the various vaccines provided a lot of hope, but now more questions than answers remain and the roll out will take longer and does not appear to guarantee the risk of spreading being eliminated.
Unfortunately, with recent announcements it looks like most of 2021 will be a travel write-off again.
So what do we know, and what can we do to assist business and personal relationships during this time?
Firstly, unless you, your family or staff that want to travel to Australia are in one of the limited exemption groups, critical skills list or hold a permanent visa, currently there is almost zero chance of being able to travel to Australia.
The travel exemptions are akin to the Golden Ticket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – and there is little evidence that this will change soon. Put simply, unless the quarantine process is changed and the numbers are significantly increased, this will remain the case for most of 2021.
In that case, what options do you have?
If you need staff on the critical skills list then visas are available and being prioritised, so you might get a better outcome than pre Covid. My recommendation would be to act quickly and take advantage of the situation.
For other business needs, remote working and training will need to be arranged if staff cannot be found in Australia. While this is obviously not ideal, at least it will allow continuity and to move forward and plan. With the current unemployment levels returning to almost pre-pandemic levels already it would appear this will not be a long-term issue, just relevant to the travel restriction period.
For family and partners, there has never been a better time to lodge a Partner visa application, as they are being processed very quickly (I am talking weeks here if decision ready) and they do not need a travel exemption. For families thinking about returning home there has never been a better chance to get this done and be able to head to Australia with the family armed with residency, which has benefits relating to employment and study.
One last hurdle though, for anyone planning to head to Australia the flight situation is still pretty tough. The best advice you can get is the updates from the Australian Embassy in Bangkok, normally through their social media releases.
I would also suggest book with a large travel agent, where cancelled flights can be quickly reimbursed or swapped to other tickets. Check with airlines their refund policies as you do not want to have large amounts tied up for future tickets you may not want.
Whilst airlines have come under a lot of criticism for cancelling flights, in some circumstances it is beyond their control and you need to try and build in as much flexibility as possible.
If I had to make a crystal ball forecast, I would err on the side of caution and the likely chance of travel without restrictions and quarantine will not happen in 2021. That being said, I would hope that by the end of the year quarantine options will have been increased so that at least larger numbers can travel.
So hang tight for another year, and either take advantage of one of the above positive options, or if you don’t need to travel then enjoy what Thailand has to offer without the normal masses of tourists and be thankful that we are not surrounded by the numbers of other countries.
Stay safe and healthy!