The UK’s decision to allow double-jabbed British holidaymakers to return from medium-risk ‘amber’ countries without having to self-isolate may be too late for Cyprus.
The rule change, announced on Thursday by UK Transport Minister Grant Shapps, comes into effect on 19 July, when Britain will lift the bulk of COVID-19 measures.
“This move means Europe is turning green for people who are fully vaccinated,” easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said in a statement.
The move will boost air travel from the UK, much to the delight of tour operators and airlines, but Cyprus has seen its epidemiological data worsen, reporting a record 952 cases.
Cyprus is currently on the UK amber list; however, local travel agents fear a new wave of infections, driven by the more contagious Delta variant, will be classified as higher risk.
The European Centre for Disease has the country in its higher risk ‘red’ category.
Cyprus will most likely be placed in the UK’s red category when British health authorities revaluate their risk assessment list in mid-July.
The rule change only applies to amber countries.
For countries on the UK’s high-risk red list, fully vaccinated Britons will still be required to self-isolate in a hotel.
In comments to the Financial Mirror, the spokesperson for the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents, Charis Papacharalambous, said: “Under other conditions, we would have been very pleased with the development, as this is what we had been waiting for to get our feet off the ground”.
Papacharalambous said that UK’s decision would not change anything if Cyprus found itself in the red.
“Bookings for the crucial peak July and August holiday season, when the industry makes most of its profit, are expected to soar following the rule change.
“But if we are in the red, then this could mean the window for tourists from our main market will dangerously narrow to just a few weeks in August.”
Germany has already put Cyprus in the red without a significant impact, as vaccinated holidaymakers can still make their way to the island.
However, Germany has a dark red category, from which all arrivals will need to undergo tests which may make things difficult.
Meanwhile, encouraged by the UK move, British tour operators will be promoting Cyprus as a destination for Britons looking to escape in August and the following months.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed, that’s all we can do, that Cyprus will not slip into the red,” said Noel Josephides of Sunvil Travel, former chairman of the association of independent tour operators (AITO).
Despite Cyprus’ grim epidemiological picture, the island may well remain in the amber category as the UK is reporting close to 30,000 new cases daily.
“Experts fear that following the lifting of restrictions on 19 July, amongst which is mandatory mask-wearing, cases edge toward 100,000,” said Josephides.
Britain has vaccinated 65% of its adult population with two jabs while offering vaccines to all people over 18.
It is estimated that people in their 30’s will be fully vaccinated and able to travel to amber countries from early August.