Meanwhile Cyprus, the only country to say it will cover costs if travellers are diagnosed with Covid-19, has also relaxed restrictions on visitors.
The EU’s most easterly state announced that while spot tests will be conducted on arrivals, the majority will no longer be required to obtain negative coronavirus certificates 72 hours prior to heading to the island. Under the scheme, up to 15% of the estimated 1,500 passengers expected in the coming weeks to fly in daily will be randomly checked.
“The only thing they need to do to fly here is fill in an electronic form,” said deputy tourism minister Savvas Perdios adding that there was a growing sense among tour operators that some of the summer could be saved.
Like most Mediterranean nations, Cyprus is dependent on tourism and, as in Greece, is now forced to weigh allowing people in while avoiding virus outbreaks that could besmirch its record as a safe destination. The two nations had among the lowest infection and casualty rates in Europe.
But Perdios told the Guardian it would be a few weeks, yet, before the former colony resumed flights from Britain – with 1.3 million visitors its main market.
“The situation in the UK is improving all the time,” he said in a telephone interview from Nicosia, the island’s war-divided island. “The general consensus is in a few weeks from now flights will be possible … mid July, around the 15th, is a reasonable expectation, earlier than that not really.”
If permitted, passengers from the UK would still very likely have to carry immunity certificates or be subject to coronavirus tests upon arrival.
With Britons accounting for 30% of the island’s vital tourist sector, officials expect losses of around 70% compared to earnings last year. But for travellers it wasn’t all bad.
Perdios foresaw “very good deals” in the months ahead following talks with tour operators.
“Now that things are a little bit clearer and destinations are opening, tour operators feel that it’s possible to save a small part of the summer even at the last moment,” he said.
“I think now the wheel is turning, things are being put in motion and there are going to be very good deals, I am certain of that not only in Cyprus but [across] the Mediterranean. Rates, deals and packages are being finalised as we speak.”
The island’s airports began accepting commercial flights on 9 June, three months after suspending air links as efforts were stepped up to stem the spread of the highly contagious disease. As yet there had been no cases of foreign travellers testing positive for Covid-19, Perdios said.