Cyprus has announced that it will throw open its borders to British holidaymakers who have been fully vaccinated from May 1.
Inoculated Britons will be free to enter the country without needing to have a negative Covid test or quarantine, the Cypriot tourism ministry said on Thursday.
Officials are looking into ways for Britons to prove they have had the vaccine, including an app or letters from doctors, according to The Times.
But those hoping to jet off for the Early May bank holiday are set to be barred by UK authorities because Boris Johnson has said he won’t allow overseas leisure travel until at least May 17.
Holidaymakers on Coral Bay beach in Cyprus in October 2017
Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios said on Thursday: ‘We have informed the British government that from May 1 we will facilitate the arrival of British nationals who have been vaccinated … so they can visit Cyprus without a negative test or needing to quarantine.’
More than a million Britons visit each year – more than from any other country – and the tourism industry accounts for 13 per cent of the Cypriot economy.
Arrivals and earnings from the sector plunged on average 85 per cent last year.
Visitors would need to be inoculated with vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency, the tourism minister said.
And the second dose of the vaccine must have been administered at least a week before travel, Perdios added.
It comes after neighbouring Greece said it was in discussions with the British government for a vaccine passport to facilitate summer holidays.
Athens said last month it is hoping for a ‘semi-normal’ season and was in talks with officials in London after seeing the stunning progress of Britain’s vaccine roll-out.
The announcement by Cyprus is a massive boost for struggling travel agents who usually rake in bookings for summer holidays at this time of year.
EasyJet’s CEO said last week that the airline was poised to ramp up flights to full capacity to countries who open their borders to the UK.
Cyprus has been in and out of lockdown for about a year, but its coronavirus outbreak has been mild compared to other countries.
By Thursday, it had recorded a total of just 36,004 infections and 232 deaths since the pandemic started.
A member of the military administers the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination centre at Holm View Leisure Centre on March 2 in Barry, Wales
Authorities have also introduced widespread testing, with almost everyone obliged to take a test once a week.
What are the rules for entering Britain?
- You cannot enter the UK if you’ve been in or through a country on the banned travel list (known as the ‘red list’) in the last 10 days, unless you’re British, Irish or you have the right to live in the UK
- You must either quarantine where you’re staying or in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 days
- What you need to do depends on where you travel in the 10 days before you arrive – if you travel in or through a country on the banned travel list within 10 days, you must stay managed quarantine hotel; if not, you can quarantine at home
- You need to provide your journey and contact details in the 48 hours before you arrive in the UK. You must do this by completing the online passenger locator form
- You’ll need to show proof that you’ve completed the form when you arrive at the UK border as well as proof of a negative PCR or antigen test taken three days before departure
- You could be fined £500 when you arrive at the border if you cannot provide proof that you have had a negative coronavirus test
- You do not need a test if you’re travelling within the UK, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey; from Ireland; from Ascension, Falkland Islands or St Helena; and children under 11 do not need a test
- After arriving at a quarantine hotel you will be tested on days two and eight of your stay using a PCR test self-administered in your room
- In Scotland, arrivals from all international destinations have to quarantine, even if they are not on the red list.
Cyprus’s move comes as European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced that plans for a ‘digital green pass’ will be set out this month to allow tourism and business travel to resume on the Continent.
The pass, a version of which has already been adopted in Israel, would allow people to prove they have been vaccinated or tested negative for Covid-19.
But British officials have warned that Europe’s slow vaccine progress means travel to the EU this summer remains shrouded in uncertainty.
The British government said last month that the resumption of foreign holiday travel ‘will be no earlier’ than May 17.
Government ministers have said they will help to furnish Britons with the necessary paperwork to travel, but have been reluctant to say that a vaccine passport will be used as a matter of course domestically, as has been signalled in countries like Israel.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said on Monday there was ‘great uncertainty at the moment’ about when travel could resume.
‘We are still in a zone of great uncertainty about what the virus will do next,’ he told a Downing Street press conference.
‘On top of that, many of the vaccination programmes in Europe – which is a place where we frequently go on holiday abroad – are running behind ours.
‘Clearly, whether we can go on holiday abroad to places such as Europe depends on what other countries will say and do in terms of foreign tourism.’
Israel has already deployed a ‘green pass’ to allow people into sporting, dining and entertainment venues once they have been vaccinated.
Tourism-reliant countries such as Greece similarly want the ‘green pass’ to serve as a passport allowing people to evade tests or quarantine when travelling.
But other countries including France and Germany fear this would create a two-tier society where those still waiting for their jabs live under unfair restrictions.
Belgian foreign minister Sophie Wilmes echoed those concerns on Monday, saying there was ‘no question of linking vaccination to the freedom of movement’
‘Respect for the principle of non-discrimination is more fundamental than ever since vaccination is not compulsory and access to the vaccine is not yet generalised,’ she said.
Spain plans ‘green corridor’ to allow UK tourists to take summer holidays – as Greece says vaccinated Britons could be allowed to jump border check queues there
by CHRIS PLEASANCE for MailOnline
Cyprus’s move to reopen borders comes after Spain said it is considering its own ‘green corridor’ for vaccinated Britons to allow them to visit this summer if there is no EU agreement on vaccine passports.
Spanish tourism minister Fernando Valdés said his government is in talks with the UK about making travel easier between the two countries in time for the summer holidays.
Meanwhile, UK tourists with vaccine passports could be allowed to skip lengthy queues at the Greek border if international travel resumes this summer, officials said.
Mr Valdés said Spain is seeking to find an agreement with the EU to allow tourism to restart – but if that does not work, the country will open bilateral talks with non-EU countries.
Spain is considering its own ‘green corridor’ for vaccinated Britons to allow holidaymakers to visit this summer if there is no EU agreement on vaccine passports, the country’s tourism minister has said
‘Right now we have discussions with our colleagues in the UK,’ Valdés told Bloomberg TV.
‘For us the British market is our main market. But obviously since we are a member of the European Union, the solutions have first to be part of the discussions with the EU.
‘And obviously if that cannot be reached, we will be thinking of other corridors like green corridors with third countries that can help us restart tourism flows.’
Meanwhile, in Greece, officials said British holidaymakers who can prove they have been jabbed will be allowed straight through customs, bypassing others who will have to wait for Covid tests.
The scheme could be up and running by May, the earliest possible date that Britons might be allowed to travel following the results of a government consultation.
The news comes after UK’s health secretary Matt Hancock yesterday confirmed discussions about vaccine passports with other countries and the EU.
‘We are absolutely working with our international partners on the need for certification in terms of having had a vaccine to be able to travel to another country,’ he said, adding that the ‘EU is part of those discussions’.
Britons who book holidays to Greece and arrive with ‘vaccine passports’ could be allowed to skip queues of people who have ‘only’ taken Covid tests (file image)
British and Greek teams are at an ‘advanced stage’ of talks over the system, Greek officials told The Sun.
Greece has been pushing European leaders to adopt vaccine passports, allowing those with jabs to travel internationally, since at least the start of the year.
In mid-January, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged EU members to ‘urgently’ consider such a system and how it would be implemented.
Mr Mitsotakis insisted that vaccines would not be mandatory for travel, but that those with vaccination certificates should be allowed to come and go freely.
Those who have not been vaccinated would require extra checks – such as testing – before being allowed to travel.
Deputy Prime Minister Akis Skertsos expanded on the idea last week, saying that the process for non-vaccinated tourists would be ‘slower’.
They would likely have to be tested either before departure or on arrival and may have to self-isolate for a period of time, he suggested to the BBC.
Haris Theoharis later added that all British tourists, whether vaccinated or not, would be welcome to come to Greece once international travel resumes.
But those without vaccines would face a combination of PCR and rapid antigen testing in order to enter, he said.
‘We’ll try to dovetail with the plan that has been announced in the UK,’ Theoharis added in an interview with the Guardian.
‘A date of 17 May has been set and we certainly want to be ready by then. The roadmap was a very, very good move by the UK government … planning is a pre-requisite for the travel industry.’
Non-essential travel is currently barred across much of the EU, with no sign that rules will be lifted soon amid a slow vaccine roll-out.
But Greece, whose economy is heavily reliant on tourism, has been in talks with countries that have much faster vaccination programmes in the hopes of salvaging its summer season – after 2020 was largely written off.