COVID-19: Greece invites Britons to start booking holidays as it targets 40 islands for vaccinations

·3-min read

Greece's tourism minister has said Britons hoping for a summer holiday in the country can start booking as it prioritises giving the COVID vaccine to the inhabitants of around 40 small islands.

The islands, which each have a population of less than 1,000 people, include Halki near Rhodes, Kastellorizo off the Turkish coast, Meganisi in the Ionian Sea and Kythira in the Peloponnese peninsula, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Larger destinations such as Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu will be targeted once Greece's tiniest islands have been vaccinated, the newspaper said.

However, UK government has said the earliest date people from England can travel abroad for a holiday is 17 May - that is provided the four tests for easing lockdown are met.

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Greek tourism minister Harry Theoharis told the Telegraph: "If you're going to send a medical team to an island with a small population, it makes sense to vaccinate not just the elderly and vulnerable, but everyone.

"We're vaccinating everyone on islands that have a population of less than 1,000 inhabitants."

Elderly people and the most vulnerable have been the first to be offered the COVID-19 vaccine in Greece, with Mr Theoharis telling the Telegraph it is now "a priority to vaccinate the tourist islands".

"We want to vaccinate people working in the tourism sector, from hotel staff and waiters to tourist guides and drivers," he added.

Mr Theoharis did not state when the vaccine rollout on the islands would be completed, saying the pace of progress "depends on how many vaccines we receive in a couple of months' time".

He added that Britons wanting to enter Greece this summer will need one of the following: a certificate showing they have been vaccinated; proof that they have antibodies against the virus; or a test to show they are negative.

Mr Theoharis told the Telegraph that Greece would "try to make it as smooth and hassle-free as possible", adding: "They can book flights and start choosing the places where they want to go."

More than one million people in Greece have received the first jab of a coronavirus vaccine, with 356,000 people having had both doses, out of a population of 11 million people.

The number of coronavirus cases is still high in Greece, with 2,702 new infections recorded on Wednesday - a record daily figure so far this year.

Greece has eased restrictions for vaccinated Israelis and is discussing a similar arrangement with the UK.

The UK government is set to discuss with the EU the bloc's proposals to create a vaccine passport that could allow people to travel more freely in time for the summer holidays.

The EU-wide "digital green pass" would provide proof a person has been vaccinated, as well as test results for those not yet inoculated and information on recovery for people who have had COVID-19.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the proposals for the pass, which will "respect data protection, security and privacy", will be set out this month.

Compared to the UK, the EU's rollout of coronavirus vaccines has been slow.

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EU leaders agreed last month to work on vaccine certificates, with southern European countries including Spain and Greece pushing to unlock tourism this summer.

However, a number of nations say before that, it needs to be established that vaccinated people cannot transmit COVID-19 to others.

Some countries, such as France and Belgium, have also expressed concern that easing travel only for inoculated people would be unfair.