image Photo: Flash90

Israeli skies open to all 1 March

All visitors will soon be allowed to enter Israel, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

By Erin Viner

According to a statement TV7 obtained from the office of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, entry into Israel will still require 2 PCR tests, one before departing and the other upon landing in Israel.

“In order to maintain the public’s trust and be certain that the citizens of Israel are implementing the directives and the government’s decision, we must open up as the situation improves – and it is improving significantly,” declared Prime Minister Bennett, after conferring with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz on easing the travel restrictions, with the participation of Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov.

“We are seeing a steady decline in the morbidity data; therefore, this is the time to gradually open what we were the first in the world to close. Our indicators must be in sync with the situation on the ground; what we are telling the public must be in sync with what is expected of it,” said the Israeli leader.

While saying “At the moment, the situation in Israel is good” and the re-opening is “the result of correct and dynamic management,” Bennett cautioned that the government “will continue to closely monitor the situation and in the event of a new variant, we will again act quickly.”

Israel first sealed its borders to all non-citizens in March 2020 and the Ben Gurion International Airport closed down completely in January 2021. After partially re-opening to foreign visitors last May, Israel became the first country to completely bar foreign entry again on 28 November in response to the outbreak of the highly-contagious Omicron variant.

The number of visitors has slowly risen, although tourism remains well below pre-pandemic levels. About 46,000 travellers came to the country last month; reflecting an increase over 7,800 in January 2021 but far fewer than the 333,000 who came in 2020.

Last week, Israel shelved it’s Green Pass program that had restricted entrance into public venues to those who could provide proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19 or negative tests.

The latest decision will take effect on 1 March. In addition to removing the inoculation requirement for visitors, Israelis who are returning to the country will only have to take an antigen test after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport but not prior to boarding. Unvaccinated citizens will also no longer be required to self-isolate while awaiting results from the PCR test.

Weekly tests for students at Israeli middle schools will be cancelled as of 24 February and at elementary schools on 10 March.

Other representatives participating in the discussion on the latest mandates include the Health Ministry Director General, the national coronavirus project manager, the Director of the Public Health Service, the Deputy Director of the National Security Council, the Finance Ministry Accountant General, the Defense Ministry Director of Civil Defense and additional Finance, Tourism and Education ministry professionals.