NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Tourism-reliant Cyprus won’t wait for the European Union to create a vaccine certificate that aims to ease travel and will seek to make its own arrangements with third countries, the country’s transport minister said Friday.
Yiannis Karousos said starting May 1 the east Mediterranean island nation will allow Britons vaccinated against COVID-19 to holiday there without having to quarantine.
The U.K. is Cyprus’ biggest single tourism market and the country is eager to welcome Britons back to revive a sector that has seen revenues plummet 85.5% in 2020 relative to 2019, when it received a record 3.9 million holidaymakers.
Karousos said the government will give vaccinated Britons a pass on self-isolation or having to undergo COVID-19 tests prior to boarding a flight because — as he claimed — people who’ve been fully inoculated with EU-approved shots can’t transmit the virus.
Karousos cited an Israeli study which he said backs up his argument that inoculated individuals won’t infect others.
“Since the U.K. has made progress in its vaccination program … we decided to proceed with U.K. tourists so that they won’t face any restrictions on arrival,” Karousos told state broadcaster RIK’s midday news program.
However, all travelers will have to abide by existing health protocols while visiting.
The decision comes around a month after Cyprus struck a similar deal with Israel to allow each others’ vaccinated citizens to travel between the countries without need to quarantine.
Karousos said the decision is essential for Cyprus to restore its connectivity with the world and help claw back huge tourism and other business revenues lost since the start of the pandemic.
He said currently, Cyprus only has 50 inbound flights each week, while one of its two airports remains closed.
“We’ve come to the point where mail is delivered to Cyprus in containers by ship, rather than by air,” Karousos said.
Vaccine certificates, which could be used as proof of inoculation and help avoid quarantines, have been a divisive issue within the EU because a large majority of EU citizens have not had access to vaccines so far. But EU officials say there is now a “convergence” among the 27-member bloc’s leaders to move ahead with the scheme.
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