Vaccine tours to Europe are gaining momentum in popularity among Russian citizens. Until Sputnik V is recognized abroad, in order to obtain a European certificate after being vaccinated with an EMA-approved drug, Russians are sent to the most attractive countries for tourism, including Greece.
As tells Dw, uncertainty with “Sputnik V” in Europe significantly complicates the life of Russians. And not only for tourists. Some are forced to cross the lines of work, while others visit relatives. But without a certificate recognized in the EU, it is impossible to rent a hotel room and dine in a restaurant. How is the problem solved?
Earlier, our publication told how the Russians go to Serbia en masse… The cost of the tour is about $ 300, it depends on the services provided. To date, according to official figures, more than 160,000 foreign citizens have been vaccinated by Pfizer in Serbia. But even earlier, in April, tourists from Europe went to Russia to get vaccinated.
At that time, the incidence was high, and vaccination was available for the select few who were in greatest need of protection – in accordance with age, professional activity, and state of health. A vaccination in Russia everyone could do it, and there were no queues at the vaccination points. Towards autumn, the situation changed to the exact opposite: Europeans stopped buying vaccine tours to Russia, but travel to the EU for vaccinations became extremely popular. Maya Lomidze, head of the Association of Russian Tour Operators, says:
“In September, regular clients of some travel companies realized that the approval process for Sputnik V was being delayed. They asked these organizations to help them get a WHO-approved vaccine.”
Russians can easily and comfortably get vaccinated in three European countries. Serbia is in the lead in demand, Greece and Croatia are no less popular. The former attracts by the absence of a visa and free vaccines, the latter by the presence of a one-component Johnson & Johnson. Well, Greece is because it is Greece: warm, welcoming, cordial and benevolent.
In September, the demand for vaccination tours was about 10-20 per month. And in October – 10-20 a day! Maya Lomidze predicts that demand will not fall until the EMA or WHO recognizes Russia’s Sputnik V. How do Russian citizens solve the vaccination problem in different countries?
In general, the vaccination of foreign citizens in Germany is not officially encouraged, but often they do not even ask for a passport before vaccination, they say in the Chaika-Tour company:
“There is no tourism product for those wishing to be vaccinated in Germany and currently cannot be, since vaccination is not a basis for entering the country. People decide such issues when they have the opportunity.”
BSI Group cordially offers Russians travel to Germany with the opportunity to get vaccinated. But this is not the easiest and cheapest option. According to Lomidze, vaccinations will cost 500-800 euros, and that’s not counting the cost of the tour itself. Accommodation prices, for example, in Germany are higher than in Croatia or Serbia. And also the payment for the translator is 60 euros. However, the travel agency, in particular its representative Yvette Verdian, says:
“Those who supply a vaccine that is approved by WHO or the EU countries receive not so little – the opportunity to enter European countries. Someone will be able to visit elderly parents in Europe, some have children there, others constantly fly on business trips … they cannot take tests every three days (in Germany every day, ed.) to visit a restaurant. “
Muscovite David Afanasiadis took advantage of an opportunity in Monaco, where he flew to a business meeting. The way to Monaco passes through Nice airport, so he spent a lot of time there. A tourist visa (from pre-coronavirus times) and a business invitation – these are all the documents that the Muscovite had with him. He had a Sputnik V vaccination certificate, but he wanted to get vaccinated with a drug recognized in the EU:
“It makes no sense to talk about trust in this or that vaccine. I’m not a doctor. But I wanted to be vaccinated with a generally recognized drug to make it easier to move around the world.”
A local friend helped the Russian to make an application, and they went to the vaccination center. David admits that in order to get vaccinated, you need to fill out a questionnaire and communicate with a doctor, so without a friend who speaks excellent French, he would hardly have been able to get vaccinated. And that’s how it turned out. With Sputnik’s certificate, he only needed one BionTech / Pfizer vaccination.
Zaur Mugutdinov, a doctor from St. Petersburg who received the full Sputnik V vaccination, ended up in Vienna as an unvaccinated person. He opted for the Janssen single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson) and says:
“This helped me a lot to save on PCR and antigen tests. The situation is not easy now, even inside the Schengen area there are border patrols that check QR codes. Well, you can’t get into restaurants and bars without a certificate either.”
After being vaccinated in one of Vienna’s shopping centers, Zaur was able to travel every weekend, and in Russian social networks he actively convinces fellow citizens to get vaccinated:
“Anti-vaccine movements are everywhere, but only here it has become mainstream. Almost the majority of the population is against vaccinations – I have never seen anything like this.”