Britons welcome to holiday in Greece with or without vaccine, minister says

FILE PHOTO: Greek Minister of Tourism Harry Theocharis speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Athens, Greece, January 23, 2020. REUTERS/Constantina Peppa

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece is ready to welcome British tourists this summer regardless of whether they have had a coronavirus vaccine, Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Greece, which has led calls for a European Union-wide certificate of vaccination to help open up summer tourism, reached an accord with Israel earlier this month to ease travel restrictions for those who can prove they have been vaccinated.

Athens is in talks with Britain about a similar agreement but travel will not be restricted to those who have had anti-COVID-19 shots, Theocharis told ITV News, according to a statement from his ministry.

"All Britons, whether they have had a coronavirus vaccine or not, will have the opportunity to travel to Greece for their summer holidays," he was quoted as saying.

He said Britons who have a vaccine certificate would not need to be quarantined or have a negative PCR test before flying to Greece.

Tourism accounts for about a fifth of the Greek economy and employs one in five workers. A collapse in arrivals last year because of the pandemic slashed revenues to 4 billion euros ($4.81 billion) from 18 billion in 2019.

Theocharis' comments came as European Union leaders met on Thursday to discuss the pandemic, including vaccine certificates, which Greece and other southern EU states like Spain hope will unlock their vital tourism sectors this summer.

Britain, where more than 18 million people have now had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, has not ruled yet on whether holidays abroad will be allowed this year.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas, Editing by Catherine Evans)

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