Cyprus says it will allow unrestricted access to Brits who’ve been vaccinated against Covid from next month and other countries are looking at doing the same.
Greece says it’s possible that British tourists who’ve had the Covid vaccine will be allowed to enter this summer without a Covid test.
Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis says Greece is discussing this with the British Government, which is now known to be looking at introducing a vaccine certificate for international travel.
Israel is also understood to be discussing quarantine-free travel with the UK Government for vaccinated holidaymakers.
But, crucially, neither Cyprus, Greece or Israel have said they won’t allow tourists who haven’t been vaccinated. Greece and Cyprus are expected to insist on non-vaccinated tourists providing a negative Covid test instead.
So far, Mauritius is the only country I’m aware of to insist on tourists being vaccinated against Covid-19.
The Indian Ocean island says it will check arrivals for vaccination certificates when it reopens to tourism later this year.
It’s unlikely, but other countries could insist on tourists being vaccination against Covid even though there is no proof as yet that the jab prevents you from spreading the virus.
This could pose problems for young holidaymakers who are low down on the waitlist for the vaccine and families with children who aren’t expected to be vaccinated at all.
It could even be problematic for those who have been vaccinated since the Government hasn’t yet confirmed how holidaymakers will prove they’ve had the Covid jab.
Will travel companies insist we’ve had the Covid vaccine?
Over-50s travel firm Saga became the first in the UK to anounce in January that it will ban customers who haven’t been vaccinated.
Crystal Cruises has since followed Saga in announcing that its clients must also be fully vaccinated when it resumes cruising in the summer.
Both cruise lines say clients must have had the second dose of the Covid vaccine at least 14 days before they travel.
As the over-70s are one of the priority groups for the Covid vaccine, Saga believes many of its customers will be among the first to be inoculated.
However, it has pushed back the relaunch of its hotels, tours and river cruise programmes until 1 May to give customers more time to become fully immunised.
So far I’m not aware of any other UK companies that insist on customers being vaccinated before they travel.
TUI, the biggest holiday company, has said it won’t require customers to be inoculated against Covid.
However, Cosmos, Avalon Waterways and Globus (all owned by the same company) say customers will have to provide proof they’ve had the vaccine OR produce a negative Covid test OR prove they’ve recovered from Covid within the previous three months.
Why is Saga insisting customers are vaccinated?
Saga says its decision to insist on clients having the vaccine was driven by its elderly customer base.
“We want to ensure we are providing the safest possible experience whilst they are on holiday with us,” said Saga CEO Chris Simmonds.
He said the vast majority of the company’s customers were pleased with the decision.
Cruise lines, especially those with an older clientele, are the travel companies most likely to follow Saga’s lead and insist on the vaccine, if only to reassure customers that it’s safe to get back on the water.
In February last year, the Diamond Princess cruise ship hit the headlines after more than 700 passengers caught Covid, making it the largest epicentre for the virus outside China at the time.
There were later several outbreaks on cruise ships worldwide, forcing the US to suspend all cruises. The UK Foreign Office is still warning against travel on all ocean-going cruise ships.
Cruise lines are planning to introduce mandatory Covid testing for guests when they resume later this year, but so far none of the major cruise lines has indicated they will insist customers being vaccinated.
Will airlines tell customers to have the Covid vaccine?
Australian airline Qantas indicated late last year that it won’t carry passengers who haven’t had the vaccine, but this hasn’t been confirmed. It could become policy by the time it re-launches flights from the UK later this year.
It’s possible but unlikely that other airlines such as British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair will require passengers to have the Covid vaccine before they fly.
Unlike Saga and other tour operators, airlines simply carry passengers from A to B and aren’t responsible for them if they get sick after the flight, so they probably don’t have the same concerns.
Also, there’s no proof, as yet, that someone who has had the vaccine can’t still catch Covid and spread it to others.
Already many air passengers have to provide proof of a negative Covid test before boarding, but that’s because this is an entry requirement of the country they’re flying to.
Will more countries insist on holidaymakers being vaccinated?
It’s possible countries, including Spain, could ban visitors who haven’t been inoculated against Covid-19, but this seems unlikely for two reasons:
First of all, there is no proof that the vaccine prevents the spread of Covid.
Secondly, countries are more likely to keep entry restrictions in place until they have vaccinated their own populations – which seems to be Spain’s policy – and then insist on arrivals being screened.
What if I can’t get the Covid jab before my Saga holiday?
Saga says you can change or cancel your holiday with a full refund if you haven’t managed to get the two doses of the Covid vaccine at least two weeks before departure.
You should contact Saga to let them know what you want to do – but it warns its phone lines might be busy.
It seems likely many of its customers won’t be vaccinated in time. The Government says it’s confident all over 50s will have been offered their first jab by May, but not their second.
Even my mum isn’t due to have her second jab by May and she’s in her late 70s! That said, they do seem to be romping through the vaccine rollout pretty fast – I’ve got my first jab next week and I’m…ahem…young.!
Saga has a list of questions and answers for customers, such as what to do if you’re exempt from the Covid jab or some people in your group have had it but others haven’t.