The UK has kept Cyprus on its amber travel list, allowing fully vaccinated Britons to fly to the island for a summer getaway without having to quarantine on their return, rekindling hopes of salvaging a blighted coronavirus summer.
There were fears a record spike in COVID-19 infections would see the UK put Cyprus in the dreaded red zone, but its relatively high vaccination rate (one jab) of over 67% has saved the day.
UK Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, made the announcement on Thursday when health authorities updated the traffic light safe travel list, much to the delight of Cyprus tourism stakeholders.
Coronavirus-stricken stakeholders welcomed the UK move, which in combination with a decision to allow fully vaccinated Britons to travel without restrictions to amber countries, means Cyprus will see more British tourists.
The Cyprus Hotel Association greeted the development as one less obstacle in the path of British tourists – the island’s largest market.
“In the gloomy landscape caused by the pandemic crisis and Cyprus’ epidemiological performance, this development is a ray of hope,” CHA’s Philokypros Rousounides told the Financial Mirror.
“We can be moderately optimistic that a dynamic trend from our traditional market will start to build over the next few weeks or even days,” said Rousounides.
He said tour operators and airlines have started to cautiously add flights and packages for the Mediterranean island.
“The main goal now is to save the remainder of the summer in a bid to have a better year than 2020.
“If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that the situation can change at any given moment”.
Rousounides said Cyprus would have to bolster vaccinations to keep cases down.
“Despite our cases being in four-digit figures, we are lucky the UK also takes into account the high number of tests, our relatively high vaccination rate, and the low number of people in Intensive Care Units.”
Under new travel guidelines from 19 July, British holidaymakers returning from amber countries will no longer have to quarantine for ten days and take two PCR tests once home.
They will need to get one test before departure and two days after their return.
Fully vaccinated means the final dose of an approved vaccine is given at least 14 days before returning to the UK.
Children under the age of 18 who are returning to the UK are exempt from requirements to quarantine but must take a test on day eight.
Those not fully vaccinated will have to quarantine on arrival and take both the day two and day eight tests.
Some 46 million Britons have been fully vaccinated, or 65% of the population. Over 80% of the population has received at least one dose.
The island has already seen income from tourism in 2020 slashed by a record 84%.
Pre-Covid-19, over 33% of Cyprus’ record 3.97 million tourist arrivals in 2019 came from the UK (1.4 mln).
Cases remain stubbornly high, peaking at 1,120 on Wednesday.
The island has reported 87,305 cases and 383 deaths since the pandemic started.