Summer holidays abroad will be possible, says Germany's tourism commissioner
After four long months of lockdown, with the weather picking up and with vaccinations now becoming an everyday reality, it’s understandable that a lot of us are beginning to think longingly of sun, sand and sea. The good news is, Germany’s tourism commissioner hasn’t dismissed this as a pipe dream.
Summer holidays should be possible in 2021
Thomas Bareiß, the federal government’s tourism commissioner, is confident that long-distance travel should be possible this summer - with some restrictions in place. “I hope that most Germans will be vaccinated by summer and will also be able to travel abroad,” the CDU politician told Bild.
He said he sees no reason why vacationers should not be able to travel to popular holiday destinations such as the Spanish Balearic islands this summer - as long as the coronavirus incidence rate there was below 35 (it is currently less than 50). According to Bareiß, the federal government should not make travel unnecessarily difficult. “We can’t keep people at home permanently,” he said.
The Robert Koch Institute classifies regions as risk areas if the seven-day coronavirus incidence rate rises above 50 per 100.000 inhabitants. A travel warning from the Foreign Office has therefore been in effect for Spain and the Balearic Islands since August last year. Passengers returning from risk areas to Germany must take a test for coronavirus before travelling, and self-isolate upon their return.
EU leaders to debate vaccination passports this week
Whether and how it will be possible to travel during the summer holidays in 2021 is one of the major topics up for discussion during a video conference between the EU heads of state and government on Thursday. Among other things, they are debating whether (or rather, when) to introduce “vaccination certificates”.
The inspiration for the idea comes from Israel, where citizens who have received their second vaccine shot are given a digital “green pass”, which can be displayed on their mobile phone, that gives them access to gyms, hotels, swimming pools, concerts, places of worship and - from the beginning of March - restaurants and bars.
Tourism-dependent countries pushing for more travel freedom
In the meantime, more and more countries, including some inside the European Union, are beginning to loosen their entry rules for people who have been vaccinated. Poland, Estonia, Romania and the Portuguese island of Madeira have all waived quarantine and test regulations for travellers with vaccinations. Outside the EU, Iceland and Seychelles are also offering preferential treatment.
EU countries that are heavily dependent on tourism, such as Greece, Cyprus and Spain, have been campaigning for weeks to allow vaccinated people to travel again soon. These demands were given impetus by an as-yet-unpublished study from Israel, which showed that the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine appeared to be almost 90 percent effective at preventing virus transmissions.
While these demands have been criticised as premature by some member states - and concerns have been raised that it could lead to a system where vaccinated people are given a “privileged status” - others have come out in support of the idea. The Chancellor of Austria, Sebastian Kurz, said on Thursday that he was in favour of giving vaccinated and tested people more freedom, while Germany’s Minister of State for Europe, Michael Roth, said that the federal government was open to talks.