The government of Greece is in talks with the UK to see if vaccination certificates could be introduced, the Greek tourism minister has said.
Harry Theoharis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are in very preliminary discussions. I’m very hopeful we can reach some sort of solution.”
“We certainly hope that with the vaccination programmes under way, and the UK is one of the leading countries in that respect […] we can have a semi-normal summer,” he said, adding: “We could recognise they have chosen to get vaccinated so there is no need to test them again and again.”
Greece is one of the most popular destinations for Britons with more than four millions visits each year.
“The vaccination certificates are issued by governments, by single authorities, not by various labs in various countries, so again it’s a step forward, that is why we are starting these discussions early in order to be able to solve any technical issues,” Theoharis said.
It follows comments by ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer about the possibility of vaccination certificates. “Having the option to obtain some sort of vaccine certificate will be important because this evidence, alongside testing, is likely to be part of the way to re-open travel,” he said.
“We would like to see the government work with the industry on how can we have a voluntary certificate that will be able to demonstrate that you’ve been vaccinated, meaning you don’t have to test or quarantine. That would be a real incentive to get people travelling again. We already know that some overseas governments such as Greece and Cyprus are looking at proof of vaccination as a way for travellers to avoid testing and quarantine requirements.”
“We should also remember that having a vaccine certificate isn’t a new idea. There are examples that already exist for viral diseases, such as yellow fever, where there is an internationally recognised standard of certification that you have been vaccinated,” Tanzer added.
In a blog, he wrote: “I understand concerns around discrimination and data privacy, which is why any vaccine certificate should be optional. The government has asked people to participate in the vaccination scheme and in the test and trace programme; people who have done so have the right to their personal data.
“While I strongly believe that being vaccinated, and having evidence of it that is recognised internationally, must be part of the solution to reopening travel – it cannot be the only route. There need to be other ways, such as a practical and cost-effective testing regime, to allow those who are yet to be vaccinated to travel.”