Greece is in “technical” talks with the UK over allowing Britons carrying a vaccine passport to travel to its tourist hotspots from May, Greece’s Tourism Minister, Haris Theoharis, has announced in the British media.
This news comes despite concerns in Brussels and other European Union countries.
According to The Guardian, Mr Theoharis said he hoped to “dovetail” with Boris Johnson’s roadmap for allowing Britons to travel, but refused to be drawn on whether Greece would break with Brussels to establish the scheme.
Non-essential travel into the EU is currently largely prohibited. All the leaders of the EU’s 27-member states will say on Thursday that “for the time being” the restrictions need to remain, according to a draft statement.
But Mr Theoharis has confirmed to The Guardian that Anglo-Greek technical teams were working on how a certificate system could facilitate the resumption of mass travel and what format it would take.
“We’ll try to dovetail with the plan that has been announced in the UK,” Mr Theoharis told The Guardian.
“A date of May 17 has been set and we certainly want to be ready by then. The roadmap was a very, very good move by the UK government… planning is a pre-requisite for the travel industry.”
Ekathimerini reports that EU leaders will meet on Thursday to discuss certificates of vaccination for EU citizens who have had an anti-COVID shot, with countries such as Greece and Spain leading the push.
Other countries, such as France and Germany, appear more reluctant to adopt a vaccination certificate however, as officials there say it could create de-facto vaccination obligation and would be discriminatory to those who cannot or will not take a jab.
Mr Theoharis said his government would continue to push for swifter agreement on vaccine passports at the EU level, given the desperate need within countries dependent on tourism to be open to visitors.
“All we are saying is that with this system we’d be instituting two lanes in airports as it were,” Mr Theoharis said.
“The vaccination lane and the non-vaccination lane which would facilitate travel quite a bit. We have to move fast.”
Mr Theoharis went on to address a number of misconceptions around the vaccine, before stressing that “what [Greece] will be bringing to the table is [our conviction] that the certificate is a prerequisite if we are to start travelling with some kind of confidence.”
“There are a number of misconceptions around the certificate, the first being that it would be discriminatory. It’s not, because it’s just an alternative to negative testing,” Mr Theoharis said.
“The idea that it breaches privacy laws is also wrong because, if you prefer, you can travel as if you are not vaccinated and always get tested. A certificate simply allows somebody to travel without needing to test all the time. In that sense it’s hassle- free and cost-efficient.
“And on the health front there is greater probability a vaccinated person has fewer chances of spreading the disease than someone who is negative at some point in time.”