EU officials in Brussels are reportedly concerned about the recent agreement between Greece and Israel to facilitate travel between the two tourism-dependent countries for those people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19.
According to a story from Kathimerini, the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper in Germany quoted a European Commission official as saying that member-states have already agreed to the rules for travel from third countries, “which do not include privileges for people who have been vaccinated.”
Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ had earlier proposed a “vaccination passport” to the EU, but his suggestion was dismissed in January by Brussels. EU officials insist that arrivals from a third country will only be allowed into the bloc when the epidemiological data of that country permit it.
Meanwhile, Cyprus has jumped on the travel corridor bandwagon and will allow Israeli travelers who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 restriction-free admission into Cyprus starting April 1. Spain and Portugal are also calling for such a certificate.
The key to any successful agreement of this type will be how efficiently and quickly the perspective states can roll out the vaccines. So far, Greece and most other nations lag far behind in both procuring and distributing the anti-virus shots. With the recent effectiveness trials of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine coming in as even more effective than Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in many cases, the EU is reportedly working to approve Sputnik V as quickly as possible
I contacted a person in Moscow with direct knowledge of the issue to find out about the timeframe for EU (Greece) approval of the Russian jab. My source says the EU nod could come on March 1. I also questioned Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis about augmenting Greece’s vaccine effort with Sputnik V, but we have not received any reply yet.
As of three days ago, Greece has administered 526,369 doses of COVID vaccines so far, which is only about 2.5% of the population. The key for Greece’s tourism sector will the relative herd immunity these vaccines can provide. Vaccinated Greeks welcoming vaccinated tourists would seem to be the goal here. And with over 90% of the population still unprotected, and under 30% of Israelis, the Greece Israel pact is not a game-changer yet.