ATHENS – He was the first to propose digital COVID-19 certificates to let tourists travel within the European Union without risk of quarantine and now Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said travelers should be allowed to self test or rapid test on return, not face expensive molecular tests.
The EU, notorious for dithering, waited too long to adopt the travel certificate idea, the delay keeping many from making vacation plans in the bloc and Mitotakis doesn't want another obstacle to Greece's hopes to lure tourists.
His suggestion came on the last day of a meeting of EU leaders, said Kathimerini, as he argued that rapid tests and self-tests have proven to be a very useful tool for epidemiological surveillance in Greece.
He also noted the while the EU took a long time to come around the idea of a travel certificate that it was finally agreed on at “such great speed” even if won't be in effect early enough to convince more people to come to Greece and the bloc.
He said he hoped the EU would “implement it as soon as possible, with uniform rules,” in order to substantially restore freedom of movement although the EU is notorious for delays and procrastination.
He said that vaccination programs also behind schedule because of the EU's cumbersome reaction despite having months to prepare will get better and that it will bring down the pandemic so that, “We will be able to avoid additional restrictions,” such as quarantines or tests even for the vaccinated.
Mitsotakis, while being upbeat as he needs tourists to reboot a limping economy brought down by lockdowns, simultaneously warned that, “We are not done with the pandemic,” although many Greeks have returned to near normal-life.
He said that booster vaccinations would be needed in another nine months to a year and that the EU should this time be ready to have enough and get them distributed after an initial debacle.
The next step for the travel certificate is for the 27 member states to call for the European Council to make revisions by mid-June, again likely too late for many people to make summer travel plans.
EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders noted that it would be possible to issue and use certificates before July 1 and that more attention is being paid to rapid antigen tests whose quality is improving.
He said the European Commission had already purchased 20 million of the tests at a cost of 100 million euros ($122.41 million) and is going to get another 550 million at a cost of 2.6 billion euros ($3.18 billion) as well.