Cypriot deputy tourism minister Savvas Perdios has been trying to sway British officials towards including his country on the UK’s green list, following a recent improvement of the epidemiological situation on the island that could still be argued either way in London.
Perdios embarked this week on a diplomatic mission to London and Moscow in an effort to persuade the two largest tourist markets for Cyprus to take a second look at the island.
The minister wants the UK, the largest market for Cyprus, to consider upgrading Cyprus to Green status for quarantine-free travel, while there are hopes that Moscow, the second largest, could be convinced to restart chartered flights to the island.
Numbers don’t add up but there are other factors
While the Republic of Cyprus had a significant drop in confirmed daily coronavirus cases, it remained above the threshold triggered by a high case notification rate.
'We told them that the first round of inoculations has been completed and now are giving the opportunity to 18-year-olds to be vaccinated'
But London is also looking at other factors to determine status on its traffic-light country list, such as vaccination rates.
Perdios told the Cyprus News Agency in London that he briefed British officials on his country’s vaccination rate, saying over 50% of the population had received their first dose of EMA-approved jabs, adding that the aim was to reach 65% by end of June.
“We told them that the first round of inoculations has been completed and now are giving the opportunity to 18-year-olds to be vaccinated,” Perdios said.
Other factors being taken into account by British health authorities include coronavirus infection rates and new coronavirus variant rates.
Perdios relayed to his British counterparts that Cyprus’ “test positivity rate and the R rate, are quite lower than the respective British indices,” noting that over the last month that island had been sending weekly COVID updates to London.
Access to reliable scientific data also in the mix
But another factor that could make or break Green status for any destination is a country's access to reliable scientific data, with the UK being particularly concerned over COVID variant rates.
The tourism minister said he knows that a COVID mutation known as the Indian variant is of main concern to British authorities. But he also said the specific variant has been limited in Cyprus, noting that cases traced at the airports were immediately quarantined.
Last month the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control notified Cypriot authorities that four cases detected back in April had the Indian mutation, along with two cases infected with the South African and 131 tesgint positive for the British variant.
Cypriot health minister Constantinos Ioannou said chances remained that Indian and South African mutations detected on the island in April might spread into the community, adding that vaccinations were the only way to stop the spread of the “aggressive variants.”
But Ioannou also said he did not believe recently detected mutated cases had contributed in any way to the spread of COVID-19, saying the carriers had reached Cyprus from countries in the Grey Category, meaning they were required to quarantine for 14 days.
“I don’t think there was any spread in the community from these cases,” Ioannou said on state television, adding that there was still a chance that variants may sneak through.
“Despite measures being taken at points of entry and the conditions set for arriving passengers based on countries… there is always a chance that mutations will be introduced in the community,” the minister wrote on Twitter.
It was also announced on Wednesday late morning that the ECDC notified Cypriot authorities about two other samples that tested positive for the Indian variant between April 30 and May 21, along with two other variants of lesser concern. There were also 166 British mutations detected in the same period, according to local media.
But Perdios tried to drive home a different message to British officials.
The Cypriot tourism minister told London that countries with significant mutations such as India, South Africa, and Brazil were never opened for flights since the outbreak of the pandemic, making it also clear that Cypriot authorities had no intention of doing so in the immediate future.
Perdios was scheduled to visit Moscow after London.