Larnaca and Paphos airports are getting ready to welcome an increased number of flights and thousands more passengers from mid-May, according to Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency on Wednesday, Karousos said he held several meeting with airport officials in the past few weeks to check on the level of preparedness before the arrival of tourists.

“Several things had to change from last year in order to facilitate and protect all passengers, from the moment they disembark the aircraft to when they have to go through passport control,” he said.

“We are also speeding up all checks and test for Covid-19 at the airports. Last Sunday, for example, all 112 passengers arrived on a flight that landed Larnaca were tested for coronavirus at on average speed of 11 seconds per person.”

“By the end of March, around 160 flights per week will land in Cyprus, by mid-April we hope to see the number rise to 240. We expect a real increase in tourists’ arrivals by mid-May especially after May 17, when tourists from the United Kingdom will start arriving in Cyprus, there will be increased passenger traffic. March and April will be useful for us to make sure that all measures and protocols in place are properly followed,” Karousos said.

Despite a general feeling of optimism, however, Britons have been warned not to book summer holidays abroad as Covid-19 cases in parts of Europe are soaring. Travel for leisure is currently banned from the UK. Under the government’s four-stage roadmap for easing pandemic restrictions, they could be allowed to resume from May 17 at the earliest, although it could be later than that it has emerged over the last few days.

Holiday travellers from England could now face 5,000 pound fines under new legislation that could be passed as early as Thursday and if approved would rule out leisure travel for Brits at least until the end of June. British Airways has already cancelled hundreds of flights for June, July and August, according to UK press reports on Monday.

Karousos said there was increased interest in coming to Cyprus from Israel and other middle-Eastern countries, adding that, starting from this year, there would be more flights to countries in Europe from Cyprus in order to improve the island’s connectivity with the rest of the continent.

Asked about the issue of the Digital Green Certificate, proof that a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19, received a negative test result or recovered from the virus, Karousos said the government has made its position clear to the European Commission.

“Cyprus is strongly in favour of the Digital Green Certificate, we have said long ago that it would be the ideal tool to utilise in order for international travel to restart,” he said.

“Cyprus was the first country to implement protocols and measures according to countries’ categories. A year after the start of the pandemic, other countries have started using our protocols as well, which is a great honour for us and something that is being noticed in the European Commission.”

Karousos, however, concluded saying he does not expect the introduction of Digital Green Certificates throughout the EU before the end of June.