United Kingdom

Europe's Covid crisis: Spain plans 'green corridor' as Greece says UK tourists may skip border queue

Spain 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, the country's tourism minister has said. 

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.

Haris Theoharis, Greek tourism minister, says the scheme could be up and running by May - the first date when Britons could be allowed to travel as the government eases restrictions

'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.

Greek ministers have already agreed that vaccinated Israeli citizens will be allowed to travel freely to the country once international travel resumes.

Israel is running the world's fastest vaccination programme with 55 per cent of its population given at least one dose - compared to five per cent in the EU. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outlined a roadmap out of lockdown for Britain as the country's vaccine programme gathers pace - with around 30 per cent of the population given at least one dose.

While Mr Johnson's plan did not include a firm date for international travel to restart, he suggested that it could happen on May 17 as some other measures - including socialising indoors and indoor events such as theatre - are relaxed.

The UK is now reporting around 6,000 coronavirus cases per day, its lowest infection rate since September and down around 50 per cent on a week-by-week basis.

Deaths have also dropped rapidly, down around 40 per cent week-on-week and at also their lowest level since September last year. 

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