Bulgaria, Greece Mull travel restrictions for Russia and Slovakia prioritize vaccinations

People spend time on the beach near the town of Shabla, Bulgaria, July 03, 2020. EPA-EFE / VASSIL DONEV

Bulgaria and Greece are both counting on Russian tourists for their summer season, but the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in Russia threatens to complicate the situation.

On Thursday, Bulgaria’s top health inspector, Dr. Angel Kunchev told Nova TV that Bulgaria could restrict Russian citizens’ access to the country due to the spread of the Delta variant in Russia.

If this happens, it will be another blow to the Black Sea coast tourism industry, which traditionally draws great interest from Russian tourists.

“I am aware of the frustration that this measure will bring, especially when many have been hoping for a regular season,” said Kunchev of the possibility that Russia could be added to Bulgaria’s “red list” of countries with high risk of infection . “If the situation stays the same [however], I’ll put the idea on the table. ”

Until recently, due to COVID-19-related regulations, groups from Russia were only allowed to enter Bulgaria as individuals. As a result, the seasonal direct flights from Moscow to Varna and Burgas, the two largest cities on the Black Sea coast, started atypically late on June 30th.

Since Wednesday, resorts have been welcoming several hundred tourists from Russia in the hope of saving a season that has been partially financially successful. According to current Bulgarian regulations, comers must provide a certificate of vaccination, negative PCR test or a document stating that the passenger has recovered from the coronavirus.

On June 30, the Greek Ministry of Tourism announced that due to the spread of the delta mutation in Russia, all comers will now have to present a negative PCR test, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not. In addition, all travelers from Russia are tested upon arrival in Greece; Double exams are not required in Bulgaria.

Greece recently came under fire for its lax restrictions. On June 24th, French President Emannuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the free acceptance of tourists who were vaccinated with non-EU-approved vaccinations, such as the Russian-made Sputnik-V.

On Thursday, Russia reported 672 COVID-19-related deaths, the highest number of deaths in a day to date.

In contrast to Bulgaria and Greece, Slovakia will switch from a country-focused approach to priority vaccination from July 9th. Regardless of the spread of the virus in any particular country, Slovakia will now only accept fully vaccinated citizens.

Anyone who does not have a valid vaccination certificate with at least one dose must go into quarantine. According to the Ministry of Health, the previous strategy was ineffective: “We saw a massive display of the applicable rules.”

Between May 20 and June 20, despite the compulsory process, only a little over 17,000 immigrants officially registered on arrival. Some see the latest move as part of the Slovak government’s campaign to encourage the stalled vaccination campaign.

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