Covid: EU unveils vaccine 'passport' plan - what could this mean for your summer holiday travel plans?

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A vaccine pass that will allow freedom of movement in a "safe, responsible and trusted manner" has been proposed by the European Union.

The EU's coronavirus digital green certificate would allow its 450 million residents to travel freely across the bloc by the summer.

They said its proposal could include all countries in the Schengen agreement including non-EU states such as Norway.

Unveiling the passport proposal, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission insisted the bloc "can achieve our target to have 70% of adults fully vaccinated by the end of summer" following a "tough" start.

Ms von der Leyen said the pass would provide a "common path to a gradual, safe and lasting re-opening" across the continent.

Post-Brexit, this will not have a direct impact on British holidaymakers, but could have a knock on effect on travel this summer.

The vaccine rollout across many European countries has been slow, and has been further disrupted after several nations paused the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine after unproven reports of blood clots.

But tourism-reliant countries, including Greece and Spain, who have been devastated by the pandemic, hope the introduction of a 'passport' will allow visitors back to the sun loungers this summer.

Travel writer Simon Calder said: "The European model for a "digital green certificate" and the CommonPass system (“Share your current health status so you can safely return to travel and life") look plausible".

As the UK inches closer to the government target of all over-18s being offered a jab by the end of July, how will this new EU initiative effect British holidaymakers?

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France - 12.7 million UK tourists

France is currently grappling with a rise in coronavirus cases prompting French President Emmanuel Macron to consider stricter coronavirus measures amid speculation Paris will be in lockdown from Saturday.

Patient numbers in intensive care wards in and around the French capital has skyrocketed in recent days.

Currently, British passport holders are allowed into the country with a negative test issued no more than 72 hours before. Even with a negative test, you must quarantine for seven days before taking another test.

Amid the current situation in France, this is unlikely to change soon.

Italy - 5.11 million UK tourists

As things stand, non-essential arrivals from the UK are banned until at least 6 April.

Italy currently stands on the edge of a third wave, with half of the country's 20 regions put in the strictest form of lockdown this week.

People are once again banned from leaving their homes except for work or medical reasons and all but essential shops are shut.

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Spain - 18.13 million UK tourists

There have been no announcements yet from the Spanish government on how and when the country will open up to British holidaymakers.

More than 18 millions Brits visited Spain in 2019, making it the UK's favourite holiday destination.

The Spanish government has suggested vaccine passports for visitors outside the EU could be implemented from May.

Spain is heavily reliant on tourism and the hospitality industry will be keen for the borders to open to foreign visitors as soon as it is seen as safe - a vaccine passport is seen as one way to do this.

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Portugal - 3.1 million UK tourists

Portugal attracts 3.1 million Brits a year, many flocking to the Algarve region's beaches.

It was removed from England’s travel ban red list earlier this week, meaning travellers no longer have to quarantine in a hotel.

There is likely to be no restrictions for people who have been vaccinated, who have antibodies or can provide a negative test.

The country is expected to reopen for UK holidaymakers from 17 May, when foreign leisure travel could be permitted for people from England under Boris Johnson’s roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions.

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Greece - 3.44 million UK tourists

Borders are set to be open to foreign holidaymakers on 14 May - three days before Brits can legally travel abroad for leisure.

Greece will require international tourists to have been vaccinated, had a recent negative Covid-19 test or have coronavirus antibodies.

Cyprus - 1.05 million UK tourists

While borders will open on 1 April, UK visitors will not be allowed to visit until 17 May at the earliest as foreign holidays remain illegal. When Brits do return to Cyprus, as a million do a year, they must have had both doses of a vaccine to be able to visit. They will not have to supply a negative test and children under 12 will be exempt.

Turkey - 2.29 million UK tourists

While not in the EU, Turkey is a big draw for UK holidaymaker, with Brits making over two million visits to the country in 2019.

Turkey expects to welcome UK holidaymakers "with open arms" this summer without requiring proof of a vaccine or negative test.

Tourism minister Mehmet Ersoy said “We will not require vaccination passports from international travellers when entering the country.”

After April 15, Turkey will also re-evaluate whether visitors must continue to produce evidence of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of their departure.

Mr Ersoy said: “I expect there will be no such requirement from British visitors as the UK Government is rapidly and impressively rolling out the vaccination programme for the whole nation, and a significant portion of the population will be vaccinated by early summer.”

He added that employees at hotels and other tourist facilities in Turkey will be prioritised for Covid-19 jabs before the summer season.

Turkey’s plan not to require proof of a vaccine or test is in contrast to other hotspots popular with UK holidaymakers.

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Germany - 3.38 million UK tourists

Germany is also seeing a rise in Covid cases and stands at "the beginning of a third wave."

The German government has restricted air and sea travel and travellers from the UK are currently only permitted to enter the country if they are returning to their place of residence or for an urgent humanitarian reason, such as urgent medical treatment or an immediate family bereavement.

Whether a vaccine passport will change this is yet to be announced.

What is a Digital Green Certificate?

Each member state will be in charge of issuing the certificate. It could, for example, be issued by hospitals, test centres, health authorities.

The digital version can be stored on a mobile device or people can request a paper version. Both will have a QR code that contains essential information, as well as a digital seal to make sure the certificate is authentic.

A Digital Green Certificate is a digital proof that a person has either:

  • Been vaccinated against Covid-19

  • Received a negative test result

  • Recovered from Covid-19

The EU Commission is working with the World Health Organization to ensure that certificates issued in the EU can be recognised elsewhere in the world as well.

Will the UK issue 'vaccine passports'?

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is heading up a UK government review into “Covid status certificates”.

It is understood he is considering the possibility of the NHS coronavirus app featuring a digital health passport, which would carry details of vaccinations and negative test results.

Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference last month that documents providing proof that someone has received a jab “raise all sorts of issues”, but he added that certificates enabling international travel “will be a feature of our life in the future”.

The government’s Global Travel Taskforce will provide a report to the Prime Minister on April 12 setting out recommendations for how and when foreign holidays could resume.