NICOSIA — While still struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, Cyprus will allow tourists from 65 countries to enter beginning May 10 if they have proof of being fully vaccinated, including those from the United States.
Also welcome are visitors from the former Colonial ruler The United Kingdom, with the island a favorite lure for them although their government won't let them travel outside the country until May 15 for now.
Cyprus relies on tourism for as much as 13 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 20.71 billion euros ($24.95 billion) annually and, like other countries reliant on visitors, suffered a terrible 2020 as the Coronavirus raged, earnings down 85 percent from the year before.
As of May 10, people who have proof of vaccination can enter without needing to test for COVID-19, said the British newspaper The Telegraph, as the country will also ease restrictions aimed at slowing the virus' spread.
Deputy Minister for Tourism Savvas Perdios told Reuters, "I think it's a fantastic initiative and I think it's very very important for people to know, that irrespective of (country risk) categorization, if someone is fully vaccinated they no longer require tests to come to Cyprus.”
Perdios told the Cyprus News Agency that countries included are Armenia, Bahrain, Canada, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, the U.S. and Switzerland, as reported by France24.
Tourists will enter the day after the government is due to lift another partial lockdown that has closed all non-essential businesses and put in place a curfew running from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said “we cannot ignore the agony expressed by health professionals who have assumed the task of treating our fellow citizens in COVID wards and intensive care units,” said Forbes magazine.
He added, that “the health system is under immense pressure and we need to ensure that the provided health services will continue to be high level,” as another persuading factors for people to feel safe to come.
The new surge was attributed to a variation from the UK which was loathe to close businesses and saw a spike in cases being beaten back by a heavily-applied vaccination program.
Ioannou said Cypriots should get their shots too, adding that, “I once more extend an appeal to everyone to vaccinate without hesitation and delay” although it hasn't been made mandatory despite the urgency.
The UK still hasn't said whether Cyprus will be on a list of countries that Brits are allowed to visit once a travel ban is lifted, a decision not expected until May 7.