United Kingdom

Cyprus throws open its borders to British holidaymakers

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.

Authorities have also introduced widespread testing, with almost everyone obliged to take a test once a week. 

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. 

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

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.

What are the rules for entering Britain? 

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