Thursday, 15 Apr 2021

EU row explodes: Portugal admits Covid passport plans – Angela Merkel’s warning ignored

UK 'must be cautious' of new coronavirus variants says expert

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With many southern EU states desperate for UK tourists this summer, Portugal has broken ranks to admit a passport may be in place in time for holidaymakers. At a two-day summit, Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa, expressed his desire for the scheme to be in place for the summer. His comments come in contrast to German Chancellor Angela Merkel who doubted the effectiveness of the scheme.

Mr Costa said: “We are defendants of a measure on a European scale, and it is with this objective that we work as presidents with the European Commission.

“The hope we all have is that by the summer it will be possible for this document to exist.”

In support of Portugal, both Austria and Greece have voiced their support for vaccine passports to kickstart the sector and their respective economies.

Greece is desperate for a passport scheme due to the size of the tourism within its economy which stands at approximately 25 percent of its total GDP.

Indeed, revenue in Greece’s tourism industry fell to £3.5billion in 2020 from £15billion in 2019.

Haris Theoharis the country’s tourism minister stated his desire to work with the UK over a scheme to allow tourism despite uncertainty among some EU officials.

Mr Theoharis said: “We’ll try to dovetail with the plan that has been announced in the UK.

“A date of 17 May has been set and we certainly want to be ready by then.

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“The roadmap was a very, very good move by the UK government planning is a pre-requisite for the travel industry.”

One EU official doubted the prospect of any state striking a unilateral policy on its own following the calls for unity over the struggling vaccine procurement scheme.

They said: “If there are discussions with the UK government that is fine.

“I don’t see any prospect of anyone going it alone.”


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However, continuing their doubts over vaccines, both Germany and France have warned against a passport scheme.

They say documents could be premature as data in terms of transmission is not complete.

There is also concern over the split in those who can and can’t travel, which may spark anger over discrimination.

In dismissing vaccine passports, Ms Merkel said: “First, it must actually be clearly resolved that vaccinated people are no longer infectious.

“As long as the number of those who have been vaccinated is still so much smaller than the number who are waiting for vaccination, the state should not treat the two groups differently.”

However, despite the demands from Portugal, any vaccine passport scheme may be premature as the EU continues to struggle with its vaccine programme.

While the UK can begin to set out plans to ease restrictions due to the successful vaccine programme, the EU’s inoculation rate has stalled.

According to figures from Our World in data, the UK is recording 28.57 per 100 people – in the most recent data. 

In contrast, Greece is recording a rate of 7.93, while France is registering 6.30 per 100 and may be forced to introduce certain lockdown measures.

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