Cyprus airports operator Hermes has welcomed a collective campaign by leading aviation bodies, dubbed Destination Summer, for the safe reopening of European borders and the easing of travel restrictions across the continent, following successive waves of the coronavirus pandemic.
The initiative aims to achieve consistent health measures that avoids unfair discrimination between vaccinated and non-vaccinated travellers.
“Thanks to ongoing vaccination campaigns across Europe, growing evidence around the efficacy of vaccines, increased testing, and improvements in the epidemiological situation, the prerequisites are now in place to enable the reopening of travel and tourism,” noted Hermes.
On Thursday, campaigners welcomed a COVID-19 safety protocol to be introduced in a bid to boost air traffic in the EU, by lifting restrictions on fully vaccinated people and those carrying a negative coronavirus test.
The European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)’s latest COVID-19 Aviation Health Safety Protocol acknowledges the improvement of epidemiological data across Europe and low risk of virus transmission during air travel.
For the first time, a protocol supports the use of antigen rapid tests, particularly for passengers travelling from high-risk areas, while calling for the implementation of the measure across Europe, doing away with expensive PCR tests.
The adoption of the protocol follows this week’s adoption of the latest EU Council Recommendations, supporting the restart of intra-EU and third country travel, making use of the EU’s Digital COVID Certificate (DCC) system, previously called the Digital Green Certificate.
Member states must now implement the DCC system by July 1. Already, 15 EU countries have connected their national certificate systems to the EU gateway ahead of the deadline. The DCC will act as a certificate recording if a passenger has been vaccinated, carries a valid negative test or has recovered from the virus in the past six months.
EU opens up for summer
“The timely preparation will allow the full system to be up and running by 1 July – when the proposal enters into application and the EU will be on time to open up again this summer,” said Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton.
The EU’s Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, added: “It is important that all member states fully finalise their national systems to issue, store and verify certificates, so the system is functioning in time for the holiday season.
“EU citizens are looking forward to travelling again, and they want to do so safely. Having an EU certificate is a crucial step on the way,” Kyriakides said.
“After 15 months of lockdowns and travel restrictions, it is time to reunite travellers in Europe,” said Maria Kouroupi, head of communications at Hermes Airports.
“Destination Summer aims to promote responsibility with an aim to establish the potential for the fastest and long-term recovery”, she said.
The protocol regulating airports over the next period will allow for some flexibility regarding the requirement for continued physical distancing at airports, given that only fully vaccinated, recovered or tested passengers will be travelling.
Campaigners further argued that in order to further encourage travelers, testing, where required, should be carried out before a flight rather than upon arrival or during transit.
Also, say the campaigners, document checks should be limited to one single check prior to travel, as repeated checks serve very little medical purpose and could lead to unnecessary queuing.
The stakeholders participating in the campaign are Airlines For Europe (A4E), Airports Council International Europe (ACI EUROPE), International Air Transport Association (IATA) and European Travel Retail Confederation (ETRC).