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Greece and UK in Talks on Covid-19 Vaccination Certificates for Travel

Photo source: gov.uk

Photo source: gov.uk

Technical discussions are underway between Greece and the United Kingdom to explore how to facilitate travel between the two countries this year, Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said on Thursday.

Speaking to BBC 4 radio, the Greek minister said the two countries at the moment are in “very preliminary discussions” with Athens expressing how the Greek government plans to make travel easier in the coronavirus-era.

“I’m very hopeful that we can reach some kind of solution at least on the technical side,” Theoharis said, expressing his hope for a “semi-normal” summer this year.

“We certainly hope that this summer, with the vaccination programs, the situation will be much better than it is now,” he said, noting that the UK has become a leader in the area of vaccinations. “Cases in the UK have dropped,” Theoharis said.

Vaccination certificates

During the interview, the minister confirmed that Greece’s idea on using Covid-19 vaccination certificates to facilitate travel are part of discussions with the UK.

Theoharis highlighted that Greece does not want to limit traveling only to those that are vaccinated. “But the need for testing could be limited by the vaccination certificate,” he explained.

“We are currently mandating that before travelling someone has to have a negative test result… Obviously this is a waste of resources for people that are vaccinated to be tested every time they travel,” Theoharis said, underlining that those vaccinated would not need to be tested “again and again” every time they take a trip.

Theoharis also brushed off concerns when BBC’s host suggested that vaccinated individuals can still pass on the coronavirus and that perhaps vaccination certificates would give a “false sense of security”.

The minister said that the same concerns exist for people that test negative for Covid-19.

“They are allowed to travel and of course a few minutes later or a few days later they may catch the disease and spread it… The vaccination certificate is a step forward, not a step backwards,” he said.

Photo source: Heathrow Airport

When asked about the dangers of people forging vaccination certificates to travel, the minister said the vaccination certificates are issued by governments, by single authorities, and not by various labs in various countries.

“Ιt’s a step forward and that’s why we are starting these discussions early in order to be able to solve any technical issues and ensure that we can verify those certificates,” he said, adding that Greece’s digital vaccination certificate has three levels of security and it can be confirmed and verified by the relevant authorities of the various countries that Athens is in discussions with.

Regarding concerns about the new variants of the virus that causes Covid-19, the minister said that although the situation has not worsened, things can change.

“We have to follow the developments, listen to the health experts and adjust our strategy as the events unfold,” Theoharis said.

The UK is the second largest market for Greek tourism, after Germany. According to Theoharis, during a “normal” year, Greece usually welcomes some 4 million visitors from the UK.

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About the Author
Nikos is Greek-American born in New York, USA, and has lived in Greece for over 30 years. He is the managing editor of Greece's leading monthly travel and tourism guide, the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) since June 2008 and of news site GTP Headlines since its launch in September 2012. Nikos has also served as international press officer for the City of Athens and for the mayor. He has a degree in Mass Media and Communications, specializing in Journalism. Nikos is a native English speaker and speaks Greek fluently.
  1. Natalie Reply

    So those that haven’t had the vaccine are being penalised I have a holiday booked for 4 of us end of may 2 teenagers that definitely won’t have had a vaccine and fingers crossed me and husband may get ours before end of may. This is disgusting I have kept safe for over a year now haven’t had a holiday or seen my family. If you expect people to have a vaccine you are about to
    Loose a lot of tourism I’m hugely disappointed . At the end of the day not everyone is going to be able to have one yet

  2. Andrea Humphreys Reply

    We’re going to Zante in June and would have had our first vaccine but probably not the second. Would that be enough or would we still need a negative test?

  3. Carl Simpson Reply

    Trouble is the Tory party are letting private firms dish out the pcr tests at £100 plus a time. The Greek government capped the test at €60 the uk should follow Greece.

  4. Steve Johnston Reply

    Good positive thinking from Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis. I have a flight booked from the UK to Rhodes in May. Like many other over 60 year olds in the UK – vaccinated, Covid free and eager to enjoy Greek hospitality and sunshine. Fingers crossed.

  5. Christine Eddleston Reply

    My husband and I have had our first vaccination and the second one is at the beginning of April. We already have a card to say this and the next vaccination date with batch number etc will be entered. Will this be sufficient enough to travel hopefully to Crete in May as we had three holidays to Crete cancelled last year.

  6. Radha Warrell Reply

    Won’t people still need to be tested negative
    even with the vaccine certificate?
    That’s what’s happening in Israel.
    Can’t we still transmit Covid even if we’ve had the vaccine?
    It’s still very unclear!
    Thank You

  7. Jonathan Murphy Reply

    The other issue is that most countries will require people to test on return. Unless Greece accepts this and makes PCR testing widely accessible and available, I can’t see there being much tourism this year.

    The idea of a Vaccination Certificate goes some way to addressing this, but is unlikely to make much difference this season.

  8. Roy Ferguson Reply

    Having people get a virus test within 72 hours of travel will add, £99/120 per person to the cost off the Holiday. I spent two weeks in Crete and two in Kos last year, none of these rules were in place. We have two weeks in Kos booked for May and Three weeks in Crete for the end of June, having to get tested before we leave adds up to £360 extra to our holiday and puts us under extreme stress as the test used gives so many false positives. And people should not be forced to get an untried rushed vaccine to travel either,l.

    • Jonathan Murphy Reply

      The other issue is that most countries will require people to test on return. Unless Greece accepts this and makes PCR testing widely accessible and available, I can’t see there being much tourism this year.

      The idea of a Vaccination Certificate goes some way to addressing this, but is unlikely to make much difference this season.

    • Jacqueline Harrison Reply

      So what do you suggest then?

    • Richard Rodgers Reply

      ‘And people should not be forced to get an untried rushed vaccine to travel either’. I would hardly call the vaccines available to be described as the above. Have we an antivaxxer on our hands here?

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