In recent months it has become a near-enough certainty that vaccine passports, along with testing, will be the key to opening up our holidays in the post-lockdown era.
Vaccine certification technology is likely to be developed for Britons so they can verify their Covid inoculations – something which is reportedly being backed by Cabinet ministers.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who is heading up the Global Travel Taskforce, will lead work on options for the certificates, which would operate in a similar way to yellow fever cards. They are being prepared in anticipation of an agreed international system for countries to accept certificates as a condition of entry for travellers.
Here we take a look at the countries that have already opened to vaccinated arrivals, and those that have said they will do so at a later date. Note that each country has its own specific border policies regarding UK arrivals. Always check the Foreign Office advice before you book or travel.
Estonia is one of the few destinations that is already waiving quarantine for vaccinated arrivals. The Foreign Office advice for Estonia states: “From 1 February, the 10-day self-isolation and Covid-19 testing are not mandatory for individuals who tested positive for Covid-19 and declared cured no longer than six months ago; or individuals who have undergone Covid-19 vaccination less than six months ago.”
The FCDO says “An officially certified print-out from another country’s digital health system will also be accepted,” in lieu of proof of having received a vaccination in Estonia.
On January 18, the Romanian government announced that anyone from the UK who has had both doses of the vaccine, and arrives in Romania more than ten days after the second dose, will no longer be expected to self-isolate.
Anyone who cannot provide proof of vaccination will need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test certificate, taken no more than 72 hours before entering Romania, and will need to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.
Last month Georgia announced it would reopen to vaccinated travellers. “Citizens of all countries, travelling by air from any country may enter Georgia if they present the document confirming the full course (two doses) of any Covid-19 vaccination at the border checkpoints of Georgia,” said the Georgian Government.
Visitors who have not been vaccinated against the virus and who have been in the UK in two weeks prior to their arrival in Estonia will face 12 days of mandatory quarantine, and will need to provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 PCR result taken 72 hours before travel.
Poland is waiving a mandatory ten-day self-isolation period for arrivals who have been vaccinated. The Foreign Office advice reads: “You do not need to self-isolate if you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and produce a certificate of vaccination for a vaccine authorised for use in the EU.”
Vaccinated arrivals can already dodge quarantine in Lebanon. The Foreign Office advises: “Diplomats and their families, official delegations and UNFIL officers are exempt from the quarantine measures, as well as those who have received the COVID-19 vaccination, on the condition that they have proof of vaccination and take a PCR test on arrival as a precautionary measure.”
When? From March 25
From March 25, everyone (with the exception of people travelling from South Africa) will be free to visit the island, regardless of their vaccination status. Quarantine requirements will be dropped for those who have received two doses of the Covid vaccine, although for the time being all arrivals (even the vaccinated) will need to provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before departure.
When? From May 1
Cyprus has announced it will allow British tourists who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 into the country without restrictions from May 1. British visitors are the largest market for Cyprus’s tourism industry, which has suffered from the pandemic.
“We have informed the British government that from May 1 we will facilitate the arrival of British nationals who have been vaccinated … so they can visit Cyprus without a negative test or needing to quarantine,” Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios told the Cyprus News Agency. Visitors would need to be inoculated with vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency, he said.
When? From May 14
Greece has indicated it will welcome in vaccinated arrivals from May 14.
“Greece is ready with a complete protocol for summer 2021,” said Prime Minister Harry Theoharis. “Tourists will be welcome if before travel they are either vaccinated, or have antibodies, or test negative. All tourists will be subject to random testing.”
Greece has already agreed a “travel corridor” with Israel allowing vaccinated people to travel between both countries.
When? By May 19
Spain’s Minister of tourism, María Reyes Maroto, said on March 10 that the country “could be in a position to start implementing the digital passport in May.”
She told Antena 3 TV that Spanish ministers hope to have the technology ready ahead of the international tourism fair, FITUR, which will be held in Madrid on May 19.
Maroto warned, however, that the rollout of any vaccine passport scheme would depend on the infection rates in Spain and speed of the vaccination process.
When? By May 17
Last week Rita Marques, Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism, told the BBC: “I do believe that Portugal will soon allow restriction-free travel, not only for vaccinated people, but those who are immune or who test negative. We hope to welcome British tourists from 17 May.”
She stressed that the situation in Portugal was “stable”, and said: “Everything will be ready by mid May.”
The island of Madeira is already welcoming travellers who can provide evidence of vaccination.
When? The middle of 2021
The country is currently leading the charge when it comes to vaccinations. More than half of its population has received a first dose – higher than any other country in the world. What’s more, Israel has joined Greece in setting a precedent for a ‘vaccination bubble’, which Cyprus is also hoping to get in on. All arrivals between the countries can dodge quarantine on arrival with proof of immunity.
And the Israeli Government has made moves to expand the bubble later in the year. The Tourism Ministry has launched a new campaign, ‘Bring Tourism Back to Israel’, fronted by model Shir Elmaliach – they say they expect to open up to international arrivals “in the middle of 2021”.
When? Third quarter of 2021
Travellers currently have to undergo a 15-day mandatory hotel quarantine in Thailand – one of the strictest border restrictions of any country in the world.
However, the country is looking to lift restrictions for anyone who has been vaccinated against Covid-19. It is expected that, under the ‘Welcome Back to Thailand Again’ plan, anyone who can prove they have received both doses of the vaccine will be able to enter without quarantine by the third quarter of 2021.
Hungary’s government said it could require visitors to prove their vaccination status to gain access to the country via an app showing immunity to Covid-19. “The need for citizens to provide proof that they have gained protection against the coronavirus is increasing all over the world,” a government spokesperson has said.
Last month, Iceland became one of the first countries in the world to waive quarantine or testing measures for residents arriving back into the country with an international vaccination certificate. Those who can provide proof they have previously had a Covid-19 infection are also exempt.
“The aim is to facilitate the movement of people between countries so that individuals can present a vaccine certificate at the border and are then exempt from Covid-19 disease control measures in accordance with the rules of the country concerned,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health.
This applies primarily to nationals and residents returning to Iceland, but also to third country nationals who are exempt from current travel restrictions (ie, travelling for an essential purpose). It is not a great leap to deduce that, once travel restrictions are lifted, all third country nationals will be able to enter the country, quarantine-free, with an international vaccination certificate.
Hawaii could begin lifting quarantine rules for visitors who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in an effort to revive its tourism industry.
Its current rules require anyone arriving to the Hawaiian islands to spend 10 days in mandatory self-isolation, unless they can provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of their arrival.
However, Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Joshua Green has said that authorities are looking at how a vaccine passport could work for travellers, potentially waiving quarantine for those who’ve been inoculated.
He told Hawaii News Now that this could involve vaccinated travellers receiving an electronic code which would also allow them to travel between islands, and that there were hopes the programme could start as early as March.