Cyprus will allow British tourists who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 into the country without restrictions from 1 May, a tourism minister has said.
British visitors are the largest market for the country’s tourism industry, which has suffered during the coronavirus pandemic. Arrivals and earnings from the sector, which represents about 13% of the Cypriot economy, plunged on average 85% in 2020.
“We have informed the British government that from 1 May 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,” the deputy tourism minister, Savvas Perdios, said on Thursday.
Visitors would need to be inoculated with vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), he said, and the second dose of a vaccine should be administered at the latest seven days before travel. Authorities would still reserve the right to carry out random tests on arrivals, Perdios added.
Cyprus has been in and out of lockdown for about a year, but its coronavirus outbreak has been relatively mild compared with other countries. By Thursday, it had recorded a total of 36,004 infections and 232 deaths. Authorities have also introduced widespread testing, with almost everyone obliged to take a test once a week.
The country has already struck a deal whereby from 1 April Israelis vaccinated with an EMA-approved vaccine will not be required to take a PCR test and will not be placed in quarantine upon arrival.
It is currently illegal for Britons to travel abroad beyond a small number of exceptions. The government has cracked down on non-essential international travel including requiring travellers to provide a valid reason for travel or risk being turned away at the airport or, in some cases, fined.
According to Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of England’s third national lockdown, the earliest possible date for the resumption of international holidays is 17 May. This would be subject to a review by the Department for Transport into how to allow more inbound and outbound travel as soon as possible, given worries over new coronavirus variants.
UK ministers are considering whether and how to facilitate the introduction of vaccine certificates or “passports” for people who wanted to travel to other countries that demanded them, in what could become a global approach whereby countries are likely to require proof of vaccination to allow safe travel.
The Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, is leading a review into the proposal for using certificates to allow visits to venues such as pubs and theatres. But the prime minister has said there are complex ethical issues with such requirements, so the review will consider the possibility of negative Covid tests to gain access to some events or services, as well as vaccination history.
Countries including Greece and Austria are keen to establish vaccine passport systems, with Denmark and Sweden already developing them. Iceland has said it won’t require travellers from an EEA/Efta state to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated. Other countries also welcoming inoculated visitors (though not from the UK currently) include the Seychelles and Romania.
Travel company Saga, which operates holidays for over-50s, and the Australian airline Qantas, have said passengers will need to have been vaccinated.
Last week, Greek tourism minister Haris Theoharis said that early technical discussions were under way with UK officials about how a potential passport scheme might work, and Spain has said it will consider a “green corridor” for vaccinated British tourists if there is no EU agreement on vaccination passports. Vaccinated Britons are currently welcome in Estonia and Poland (once the government’s travel ban lifts).
But the UK government stresses there is still no guarantee that foreign holidays will be able to take place this year, with each phase of easing the lockdown dependent on the impact of the last.
The review’s findings are hoped to be available before the final phase of England’s lockdown easing on 21 June, the earliest date by which ministers hope most Covid measures can come to an end.