Restriction-free holidays to Greece could be on the cards for Britons who have been vaccinated, a Greek minister has said.

The Greek tourism minister revealed on Thursday that his government is in “preliminary discussions” with the UK government over a potential travel agreement for Britons who have been vaccinated.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Haris Theoharis said he was hoping for a “semi-normal summer” this year.

He suggested that a ‘vaccine passport’ scheme could facilitate travel between Britain and Greece.

“Discussions are under way to see if it will be feasible,” he said, adding that he was “very hopeful that we can reach a solution”.

“We don’t want to limit travel to those who have been vaccinated of course, but since we are mandating that before travelling someone has to have a negative test result, this is a waste of resources if people are vaccinated, to be tested every time they travel, the need for this testing could be limited by the vaccination certificate,” he said.

Theoharis also praised the UK’s “leading” vaccine programme, saying it that with it being one of the best in the world it could lead to a “much, much better” summer this year than last.

Nearly 4 million Britons go to Greece every year, which means Britain is one of its most important tourism markets.

All arrivals into Greece have to present a negative Covid test taken within a 72-hour window, while arrivals from the UK have to undergo a rapid test on arrival as well.

Although Greece has fared better than most other countries in Europe with its coronavirus death toll at just over 6,000, it experienced a big drop in arrivals last year.

Tourism accounts for more than 20% of the nation’s GDP. Its government hopes to revive the sector by 1 June amid forecasts of the country attracting at least half of the 31.3 million visitors who flew in before the pandemic.

Boris Johnson is due to give details on the easing of lockdown in England in an announcement on 22 February and is facing pressure both from the tourism industry and lockdown sceptic backbenchers.

Earlier this month the prime minister said he was “optimistic” about the prospect of normal summer holidays, however last week he warned the public against pinning their hopes on a holiday, even in the UK, until the government announces its plans for lifting lockdown.

Meanwhile the travel sector is stepping up its “ignore the government” messaging with the launch of a campaign to reassure consumers that it is safe to book holidays for this summer.

The Save our Summer (SOS) group is calling on the government to ensure holidays at home and abroad are possible from 1 May.

This content first appear on the guardian

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