Cyprus Opens Door to Vaccinated Brits, Breaking Ranks With EU

Cyprus said it will let in Britons who have had two Covid-19 jabs from May, opening the door to a wave of older U.K. holidaymakers as it targets an early return in the tourist traffic on which its economy relies.

The island nation in the eastern Mediterranean said Friday it will admit qualifying visitors from May 1, though the British government isn’t due to lift a ban on leisure travel until May 17 at the earliest.

The move spotlights the European Union’s struggle to forge a common approach on Covid-19 immunity certificates. With work on a digital platform set to take three or four months, tourist-dependent countries are beginning to break ranks and forge bilateral arrangements. The Portuguese island of Madeira said in February it would let in inoculated visitors, while the Greek government has said it expects to make an announcement in the coming weeks.

“This is a very important development,” Savvas Perdios, Cyprus’s tourism minister, told the state news agency, adding that the step should create “the necessary stability and a sense of security for travelers so they could plan their holiday in the coming summer.”

Under the arrangement, which follows a Cypriot deal with Israel last month, visiting Brits must have had a second dose of a European Medicines Agency-approved vaccine at least seven days before traveling.

The U.K. remains well ahead of the rest of Europe, with more than 20 million people having had at least one vaccine dose. Older citizens are being prioritized, meaning elderly guests are set to dominate early bookings.

EU Passport

The Covid-passport system being developed by the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, would confirm holders have tested negative, been vaccinated, or recovered from the virus. While tourism-dependent economies like Greece want a rapid introduction, France and Belgium have resisted, citing concerns over privacy and fairness.

This so-called digital green certificate “will be designed to facilitate the free movement and to ensure that while certain restrictions of free movement may remain in place, these will only be used where justified and to the extent necessary,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote in a March 5 letter to EU leaders seen by Bloomberg.

“Where people can enjoy the free movement without a risk to public health, they should be able to do so,” she said, adding that it could take at least three months to complete work on the digital certificate. The commission plans to adopt the legislative proposal for the passport on March 17.

Von der Leyen also wrote that the EU would need to ensure that the vaccine certificate didn’t discriminate against people who didn’t have access to doses.

‘Red List’

Cyprus will require no negative Covid-19 test and there’ll be no quarantine for those who have been fully vaccinated, though sample testing could be carried out and people must comply with health protocols such as mask wearing and social distancing. Actual entry dates will be subject to travel advice issued by the British government, Perdios said.

Autonomous authorities on Madeira have said the island will now admit tourists who can produce an official vaccination certificate or proof that they have recovered from Covid-19 in the past 90 days.

Visits by vaccinated Brits may be complicated, however, since Portugal is on a “red list” of locations from which people arriving in the U.K. must quarantine for 10 days in a hotel. The measure was imposed amid concern that the more virulent strain of Covid-19 first found in Brazil could spread via Portugal.

Greece is meanwhile working on a bilateral deal with the U.K. after reaching an agreement with Israel, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told Bloomberg TV last month. While summer plans may firm up in coming weeks, the premier said it would be preferable to coordinate at a European level. Talks are also underway with the U.S. and Russia, according to tourism Minister Harry Theoharis.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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