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British tourists who can prove that they have had the coronavirus vaccine may be allowed into Greece from as early as May.
Greece is now setting itself on a collision course with the EU by potentially breaking with the bloc’s united approach by opening its borders to allow Britons into the country.
According to The Times, officials in Athens are discussing whether to allow in vaccinated Britons, while implementing their own programme to give airport workers and resort staff the jab.
But EU leaders are expected to say infections are too high for restrictions to be lifted on the tourism industry, the paper added.
Last week, Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis signed a deal with Israel to let citizens with vaccination certificates travel between the two countries and said talks were under way for a similar deal with Britain.
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Vaccine passports review
Senior officials, including the government’s vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, have frequently seemed to dismiss the idea of introducing vaccine passports in the UK.
But when announcing his road map on Monday, Johnson confirmed that a study into the use of vaccine and testing certificates will be one of four reviews conducted as part of easing the current restrictions.
Speaking at a school in south London on Tuesday, the prime minister told reporters that the introduction of such certificates should not discriminate against those who opt out of receiving the jab.
“There are deep and complex issues that we need to explore, and ethical issues about what the role is for government in mandating or for people to have such a thing, or indeed in banning from people doing such a thing,” he said.
Speaking this morning, professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said people may need vaccine passports to travel.
Insisting that COVID affects people across all age ranges, Harnden told the Science and Technology Committee: “And then of course there is the other issue that young people like travelling and it’s almost inevitable that countries outside the UK – independent on what the UK decides about vaccine passports… so these young people will need to have some vaccination certificates to actually be able to travel to some parts of the world that they want to go to.”
Meanwhile, the UK will use its presidency of the G7 to seek an international approach on the use of vaccine passports as part of the effort to restart global travel.
A Number 10 spokesman said: “It’s going to need an international consensus to be built on how to allow for greater foreign travel, and that’s why we’re going to try and do that via the G7, and through other sort of multilateral discussions, because… it will be for different countries to determine their own regimes in relation to the quarantine and who they want to allow in, and we want to try and work together to get some sort of international framework.”
Johnson’s road map states that vaccinations could offer a route to the “safe and sustainable return” of international travel but that any system must not disadvantage people who have not been offered or cannot access a vaccine.
Holiday bookings surge
Airlines and travel firms reported a surge in demand following Johnson’s announcement that foreign holidays could be permitted from 17 May.
In the hours after the announcement, easyJet said bookings by UK customers for the summer season were more than four times higher compared with the same period during the previous week.
Tui, the UK’s largest tour operator, recorded a six-fold increase in bookings, making Monday its busiest day in more than a month.
The hotspots of Greece, Spain and Turkey are the most in-demand locations from July onwards.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said the effectiveness of vaccines against coronavirus strains will play a major part in the international travel review.
“We do have to protect against these new variants, and that is a big challenge,” he told Sky News.
He added that “we can be much more relaxed about international travel” if vaccines work well against strains of the virus from South Africa and Brazil.
“If the vaccine doesn’t work against them, then that will be much, much more difficult,” he said.
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