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Immunized tourists to enjoy holidays in parts of Europe this summer

By ANGUS McNEICE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-03-11 09:36

Tourists walk around the almost empty Playa del Ingles amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Gran Canaria, Spain, Jan 5, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Tourists vaccinated against the novel coronavirus may be allowed to take holidays in parts of Europe this summer, with several nations announcing plans for "vaccine passport" programs.

Spain could give the greenlight to inoculated travelers by mid-May, Tourism Minister Maria Reyes Maroto told Antena 3 TV station on Wednesday. This follows similar announcements from authorities in Greece and Cyprus, who also aim to reboot their dormant tourism industries in time for the warmer months.

Travelers will likely have to provide a recent negative COVID-19 test, along with proof of full vaccination coverage, in order to gain entry to select holiday destinations.

"We want to have a wide variety of tools to reactive mobility," Maroto told a news conference. "All this will enable us to have a clear horizon and hope so we can be more optimistic about the relaunch of international travel. We want to be pioneers and we are the most active champions of digital vaccine passports to facilitate international mobility."

Greece's Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis said the country will launch a pilot program to begin reopening borders in April, with a view to fully launch the scheme the following month.

"We aim to open tourism by May 14, with specific rules and updated protocols. Until then we will gradually lift restrictions provided conditions linked to the pandemic permit," Theoharis said at a news conference. "Please allow me to emphasize that no image could better portray the return to the normality of tourism than the Greek smile, the Greek landscape, the Greek hospitality."

Greece has already agreed a vaccine passport deal with travelers from Israel, while Cyprus has said that British tourists are welcome from May 1, provided they have received a full course of an approved vaccine.

While some countries forge on with individual plans, the possibility of an European Union-wide approach is on the horizon.

Later this month EU member states will debate legislation for increased movement between member states.

"We'll present this month a legislative proposal for a Digital Green Pass," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter last week.

Von der Leyen said that such a pass would involve proof that a person has been vaccinated, or test results for those who could net get vaccinated.

"The Digital Green Pass should facilitate Europeans' lives," she said. "The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the European Union or abroad-for work or tourism."

Not everyone, however, shares his enthusiasm for the plan. There is concern that it will discriminate against citizens in member states with low vaccine coverage, while questions still remain about transmission of the virus among the vaccinated.

"It must actually be clearly resolved that vaccinated people are no longer infectious," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The United Kingdom's Global Travel Taskforce advisory body is conducting a review into the resumption of international travel which it will present to the government next month. On Wednesday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Times Radio that UK tourists will not be traveling abroad until at least May 19.

Global Edition
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