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COVID19: Cyprus tourism nightmare if UK bans summer travel

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Cyprus tourism is in for another nasty shock after people in the UK were warned that foreign holidays this summer are ‘extremely unlikely’ as concern builds over COVID-19 third waves.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the COVID-19 modelling group which advises the UK government, said there was a danger that new variants could jeopardise the vaccination programme later in the year.

Dr Tildesley made reference to the possibility of British tourists returning from abroad introducing the South African strain of the virus, which is considered more resistant to vaccines.

“The more we can delay the holidays, the better,” he commented.

Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London (UCL) and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told Times Radio that it was “very worrying” for Europe to be moving into a “third wave” of coronavirus cases with “comparatively low vaccination levels”.

“It is very unlikely that London will be encouraging international travel,” said Hayward.

Following Dr Tildesley’s comments, Grant Shapps Secretary of the State for Transport said that is was “too early to tell if international travel would be allowed for Britons”.

Earlier in the year, Cyprus had seen a rekindling of interest for summer holidays, following premier Boris Johnson’s estimates that international travel could be back on as early as 17 May.

‘Airlines UK’, representing British airliners, said the opening of travel should be based on a public health risk assessment, although it added that progress of vaccinations in Britain theoretically allows for a gradual opening.

The UK is preparing a three colour-coded safe travel COVID-19 risk assessment scheme, similar to Cyprus, with tighter criteria for allowing travel to and from countries that are in the red.

A spike in coronavirus cases, fuelled by the UK variant, has put Cyprus in Europe’s danger zone.

Countries with a higher rate of vaccinations against COVID-19 will be moved to the Green category.

Meanwhile, the discovery of a more potent strain of the virus identified in Britain led to UK arrivals being asked to undergo a laboratory test upon their arrival at Larnaca or Paphos Airports and they are transported to designated hotels – free of charge – for mandatory 7-day isolation.

After that they undergo another PCR test, and if negative will remain in self-isolation for another 3 days.

The practice will be in place until March 31, when the restriction is expected to be lifted.

The decrease in tourist revenue and arrivals in 2020 reached 85%.

Due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions, tourist arrivals plunged by 84.1% in 2020 from 3.97 mln tourists in 2019, marking Cyprus’ worst tourist seasons.

British tourists made up one-third of all tourist arrivals in pre-COVID 2019.

The pandemic ended four successive record years of tourist arrivals that helped Cyprus emerge from a financial crisis in 2013.

Cyprus said it would allow vaccinated British tourists entry from May without the need for quarantine or a negative COVID-19 test.

But the British government has banned foreign travel until a mid-May review.