Cyprus is not expected to be among the countries British holidaymakers will be easily able to visit soon, as the UK is discussing a new traffic-light scheme based on coronavirus vaccination rates and level of variants, according to a report by The Times, published on Friday.
The report said that the United States, Maldives, Israel, and Malta could become the first overseas destinations to be opened up for British holidaymakers this summer under plans to prioritise countries with high coronavirus vaccination rates.
Cyprus announced last month it would allow vaccinated Britons’ entry to the country from May 1 without restrictions, such as diagnostic tests and quarantine but the report that vaccination rates and variant dominance could determine Britain’s decisions on summer travel for its nationals, seems to complicate things.
The Times reports that ministers discussed a new traffic-light scheme for resuming international travel on Thursday evening in advance of an announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday when he will set out how the system will work. Countries will be graded red, amber or green, the report said.
Johnson, the daily reported, is expected to lay out a range of criteria that will determine which countries will be put on the “green” list. “Sources said that a country’s vaccination rate would “play a big part” in its ranking, as well as its level of “variants of concern”, the daily reported.
Travel to and from red-list countries will be banned, while people returning from amber countries will have to quarantine for up to ten days. Those returning from green-listed destinations will be exempt from quarantine.
Although Johnson will not name destinations or dates on Monday, government insiders said they expected countries that had the highest vaccination rates and were not reporting variants of concern to be the first to open.
“Holiday destinations such as the Maldives and Malta were mentioned by sources as likely to be among the first, along with the US. All three have a vaccination rate of about 44 per 100 people,” the report said. “Israel, which is expected to have offered a second dose to more than half of its population by the middle of next month, is almost certain to be on the “green” list of countries.”
The Times report that there is much more uncertainty about countries such as the United Arab Emirates, which has a very high vaccination rate of 84 per 100 people but is on Britain’s “red list” of countries that require hotel quarantine.
According to the latest data by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, for week 12 starting from March 28, Cyprus has vaccinated so far 5.7 per cent of its population over 18, with Malta leading the race with 10.9 per cent. Cyprus hopes to cover vulnerable groups, and everyone aged 45 and over by the beginning of May. According to the latest data shared by the health ministry on March 25, the average number of doses in Cyprus per 100 people amounts to 14.78.
Cypriot authorities, however, have expressed concern over the dominance in the community of the coronavirus variant first identified in the UK. The health ministry said last week that the British variant has been particularly dominant after mid-February as sample analysis showed a staggered rise in prevalence that reaches 95.5 per cent between February 15 and March 6, which coincided with the worsening of the country’s epidemiological situation.
The Times report that a final decision on when international travel will resume has not been made but ministers suggested that the present ban on foreign holidays was unlikely to be lifted until July.
“Ministers warned privately, though, that international travel would be “severely suppressed” for another year at least,” the daily reports. “They expected passenger levels under the plan to remain at one twentieth of 2019’s for the rest of this year.”
The proposal states that Britain is unlikely to open for all inbound travel until next year, the daily reports citing a government source saying: “Holidays won’t be as we know them for the foreseeable future.”