Vaccines begin to open up borders
May 12 2021 07:39 PM
Alex Macheras
Alex Macheras

By Alex Macheras

As the worldwide vaccine rollout continues, countries are beginning to announce their intentions to open up borders to travellers for the first time in several months, or in some cases — since the pandemic began.

"If you are fully vaccinated, you should feel good about participating in things that are important to you," says Dr Preeti Malani, an infectious disease specialist and chief health officer at the University of Michigan. Just remember, you still want to behave in ways that reduce the risks for everyone.

Spain expects to welcome around 45mn foreign tourists in 2021, just over half the number who came in 2019 before the pandemic struck, the tourism minister said on Wednesday. “It’s a cautious forecast but it’s realistic, that we can recover half of the international tourists that we had in 2019,” Reyes Maroto told reporters.

The world’s second most popular destination after France, Spain registered 83.5mn foreign visitors in 2019, official figures show.

“Spain is ready to reopen to the world very soon,” she said on launching the summer promotional campaign, which is primarily aimed at European visitors, notably those from the UK who have long been Spain’s most important source of tourists.

The campaign also targets French and German tourists.

“We are developing tools that will allow for safe travel,” she said, in a nod to the European vaccination passport which should be operational in June.

With the European Union expected to update its restrictions on non-essential visits from outside the bloc on May 20, it would likely mean Spain would be able to once again welcome British tourists, she said.

Britain, which long been the biggest source of tourists for Spain, will allow international travel to resume from May 17 after months of banning most trips abroad.

The German government has agreed to let travellers who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 or recovered from infection avoid testing and quarantine when entering the country. The exemption won’t apply to people arriving from areas where variants of concern are prevalent. The measures approved on Wednesday are designed to make summer travel easier, particularly for families when parents are vaccinated, and children are not.

Germany’s health minister said the country expects to roll out its digital immunity certificate by the end of June, making it easier to prove a person has been fully vaccinated. The certificate can be stored in an app that can be used instead of the yellow World Health Organisation vaccine booklet.

Travellers can already visit Croatia with proof of vaccination, a negative Covid-19 PCR or rapid antigen test taken no more than 48 hours prior to arrival or a medical certificate proving that they have recovered from Covid-19 after having a positive PCR or rapid antigen test result. Entry into Croatia for tourism is only allowed with proof of accommodation paid in full ahead of time.

Vaccinated travellers can also visit the nation of Georgia with proof that they've received their full dosage while unvaccinated visitors will need to provide a negative Covid-19 PCR test result conducted within 72 hours of travel in order to gain entry. From Qatar, QID holders can enter Georgia without a visa.

From May 14, travellers from all over the world can visit Greece, and those who are fully vaccinated will not need a negative Covid-19 PCR test, nor will they need to test on arrival, or quarantine.

Iceland recently made it easier for fully vaccinated travellers to visit, requiring them to test for Covid-19 upon arrival and wait for results at their accommodation. Results are usually received within 5-6 hours but can take up to 24 hours.

The island nation of Seychelles off the coast of East Africa is open to all travellers regardless of their vaccination status as long as they can provide proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. Visitors also need to submit a Health Travel Authorisation, have reservations at an approved accommodation and purchase travel insurance.

Estonia allows travellers to avoid testing and 10-day quarantines if they’ve had Covid-19 or been vaccinated against the coronavirus in the past six months. Proof of vaccination can be shown by an immunisation passport or certificate, and vaccines approved in a travellers’ country of residence or departure are accepted.

French President Emmanuel Macron told “Face the Nation” on CBS News this month that the country will begin easing travel restrictions in May and is “working hard to propose a very concrete solution, especially for travellers who are vaccinated” by this summer.

As Covid-19 infection rates begin to drop in the region, European Union ministers met in Brussels on Tuesday in hopes of reaching an agreement on a "green certificate" travel pass designed to make it easier for fully vaccinated tourists to travel in the continent in time for the summer vacation season.

The European Commission predicts about 70% of the EU adult population will be vaccinated by the end of the summer. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reports as of Tuesday, almost 32% of adults in the EU have received at least one dose of vaccine.

In Europe, the commission suggested the certificates would allow EU residents who can prove they have been vaccinated, as well as those who tested negative.


*The author is an aviation analyst.


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