The Health Ministry said Monday that it will allow fully vaccinated tourists from some countries to enter Israel from Sunday, January 9, ending a near-total ban on entry to non-citizens.
Foreign travelers who have not been vaccinated or recovered are not allowed to enter Israel. Visitors from countries on the Ministry of Health’s “red” prohibited list are still not allowed to attend.
Israel reopened its doors to foreign tourism in early November, for the first time since the start of the pandemic, but was banned again at the end of that month. Foreign travelers are trying to delay the arrival of the highly contagious coronavirus OMICRON.
On Monday, the Ministry of Health recommended removing Canada, France, South Africa, Hungary, Nigeria, Spain and Portugal from the list of “red” countries. Travel to and from the US and UK remains prohibited.
The new shortlist is subject to approval by the Knesset Health Committee. There was no indication of when the government plans to lift restrictions on the rest of the countries.
Previously, Israel accepted vaccination certificates for the Chinese vaccines Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sinovac or Sinopharm. Those vaccinated with Russian Sputnik V must undergo a serological test, which detects antibodies, to ensure their protection. It was not immediately clear whether this policy would continue.
The decision to allow tourists to return to the country comes as Israel struggles with the meteoric rise of Omicron, but officials appear to have largely dealt with the highly contagious but milder form of the virus that is spreading rapidly as the population spreads.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has also recommended that vaccinated and resettled Israeli travelers who have returned from countries designated as “orange” should not be quarantined for three days upon their return to Israel, and instead just self-isolate. So that they get the results of the PCR test that was done on landing. This decision also requires the approval of the commission.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, admitted that lifting travel restrictions on Sunday may seem illogical. But he made it clear that when there were fewer active infections in the country, the spread of the virus from abroad had a greater impact on disease rates. When there were already tens of thousands of cases in Israel, he said, 50 more infections among travelers from abroad were “useless”.
The easing of travel restrictions comes as Israel suffers a string of infections caused by the Omicron tribe. On Monday, the health ministry said 6,562 cases had been confirmed the previous day – more than three times the number recorded in the previous week.
In addition to Sunday’s cases, 2,305 more people diagnosed since midnight have brought the number of active infections past 37,000.
As of Monday morning, 110 patients were in serious condition, 45 of whom are in critical condition. The majority of critically ill patients are not immunized.
Meanwhile, the transfer rate continued to rise steadily and reached 1.88. The transmission rate, or R number, which represents the average number of people infected by each carrier of the virus, is based on data from the past 10 days, and any value above 1 indicates the spread of the epidemic.
As the testing system begins to shrink under pressure from rising infections and massive lines seen across the country, 4.83 percent of tests conducted on Sunday came back positive, another sign of the accelerating virus spread.
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