LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Cyprus said it will let in Britons who have had two Covid-19 jabs from May, opening the door to a wave of elderly UK holidaymakers as it targets an early return in the tourist traffic on which its economy relies.
The island nation in the eastern Mediterranean said on Friday (March 5) it will admit qualifying visitors from May 1, though the British government is not 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," Mr 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 travellers 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 travelling.
Britain 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 prioritised, meaning elderly guests are set to dominate early bookings.
Cyprus will require no negative Covid-19 test and there will be no quarantine, 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, Mr 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 Britain 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 Britain 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 under way with the US and Russia, according to tourism Minister Harry Theoharis.
The Covid-passport system being developed by the European Commission 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.