SPAIN is mulling the creation of a ‘green corridor’ to welcome vaccinated British tourists to its shores in time for a summer holiday.
Spanish tourism minister, Fernando Valdés on Tuesday said a bi-lateral plan could be developed with the UK if Brussels fails to strike an EU-wide agreement on coronavirus vaccine passports.
“Right now we are in discussions with our colleagues in the UK,” Valdés told Bloomberg TV. “For us the British market is our main market. But obviously since we are a member of the European Union, the solutions have first to be part of the discussions with the EU.”
“And obviously if that cannot be reached, we will be thinking of other corridors like green corridors with third countries that can help us restart tourism flows,” he said.
Such a plan could be in place by May 17th, which is the earliest possible date British people could be allowed to travel abroad for non-essential reasons under a roadmap unveiled by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month.
Would-be holidaymakers from the UK will be given clarity on making plans for the summer by April 12th, when a British government review on how to restart travel safely will be published.
Earlier this week European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced plans for a vaccine passport scheme dubbed the “Digital Green Pass” which would allow travel to resume across the continent this summer, before being extended to include non-EU countries too.
“The Digital Green Pass should facilitate Europeans’ lives,” she said, “The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the EU or abroad for work or tourism.’
A spokesperson later said the objective of the pass will be to facilitate “safe and free movement in the EU” and will apply for both work and tourism purposes.
The Digital Green Pass promises to be more than just a vaccination card and besides proof on inoculation it would also include results of previous COVID-19 tests and medical certificates indicating those who have recently recovered from the disease.
But the scheme may still be months away from being introduced.
The concrete details of the proposal will be unveiled later this month and will be followed by, at least, three months of technical work which means it wouldn’t be introduced until July at the earliest.
But the scheme doesn’t have the full backing from across Europe, with critics arguing that until vaccinations are open to all, it could breach freedom of movement rights because the ‘passports’ could create two classes of citizens: the vaccinated and the non-vaccinated.
“For Belgium, there is no question of linking vaccination to the freedom of movement around Europe. Respect for the principle of non-discrimination is more fundamental than ever since vaccination is not compulsory and access to the vaccine is not yet generalised,” wrote Sophie Wilmès, the Belgian foreign affairs minister following von der Leyen’s announcement.
EU officials point out the WHO and EU health agencies have yet to determine whether people who have received two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine can still carry the coronavirus and infect others, throwing into question the efficacy of a vaccine passport.
Spain’s ‘Plan B’ wouldn’t be put in place until it lifts the ban on travellers from the UK, which has been in place since December 23rd and was recently extended until at least March 16th .in a bid to curb the spread of a new variant that has swept across Britain.
Recent data showed that tourist visitors to Spain had dropped 90 percent in January on a year earlier.
Spain’s tourism sector which saw 80percent drop in earnings over 2020 is banking on a revival by summer fuelled by visitors from Britain, which accounts for the single largest group of foreign visitors.
Following the British government’s announcement that travel could be resumed from mid-May, travel companies have reported a huge surge in bookings to Spanish destinations.
Travel site Skyscanner said flight bookings made on the day of the announcement were 69% higher than the previous day with Spain ranking as the top destination.
But many travellers are banking on the removal of compulsory quarantine on return to the UK and a loosening of covid-testing requirements before booking holidays to Spain.
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