COVID: Tourist groups allowed into Israel in 2 weeks, no isolation

COVID: Tourist groups allowed into Israel in 2 weeks, no isolation

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Foreign groups of vaccinated tourists from selected countries will be allowed into Israel again starting September 19 in the framework of a special pilot program, the Tourism Ministry told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

In order to qualify, the tourists will need to present proof of a second vaccination recognized by the Israeli Health Ministry received within the last six months or of a third vaccination.

When they land, visitors will be required to take a serological test to prove the presence of antibodies in their blood.

 Ultra orthodox Jewish men make there way to Uman for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah at the ben gurion international airport near Tel Aviv on September 1, 2021.  (credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90) Ultra orthodox Jewish men make there way to Uman for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah at the ben gurion international airport near Tel Aviv on September 1, 2021. (credit: YOSSI ZELIGER/FLASH90)

Only tourists coming from countries classified as “yellow” or “orange” by the Health Ministry can be part of the groups. Currently, these include all the nations in the world except for Brazil, Bulgaria, Mexico and Turkey, which are classified as “red.”

The ministry said that travel agents and tour operators can submit requests for groups from five to 30 tourists, as was the case before the program was temporarily halted due to increased morbidity in Israel and around the world as a result of the coronavirus Delta variant.

The program does not limit the total number of foreign tourist groups allowed into the country.

The ministry said it expects applications to start arriving later this week, after Rosh Hashanah.

Israeli borders have been closed to foreign nationals for a year and a half, with very limited exceptions.

As the pandemic abated in the spring, the country reopened its skies to a limited number of vaccinated tourist groups, at the beginning of June, and prepared to do the same for individuals in July. However, after coronavirus cases started to climb again, the plan was postponed until the beginning of July before it was put on hold indefinitely.

At the beginning of August, when the Health Ministry introduced a mandatory quarantine of seven days for inbound travelers from almost all countries in the world – including the US, Canada and the vast majority of Europe – group trips also ceased.

At the moment Israel does not recognize any foreign vaccination or recovery documentation. Non-citizens who want to enter the country have to present their certificates in order to receive the special permission required to enter, but once in Israel, if they want to be considered immunized, they need to undergo a private serological test to prove the presence of antibodies in their blood.

Currently, rapid serological tests are offered at Ben-Gurion Airport upon arrival, together with PCR tests, which are mandatory for all inbound passengers. The test provides results in 20 minutes and costs NIS 127.

On Friday, Birthright Israel announced it will resume trips starting in October. The organization sponsors short-term educational trips for Jewish youths from all over the world.

According to new regulations that came into effect Friday, individuals who received their third shot at least a week earlier, have had their second shot or recovered within the last six months, or have received one dose of the vaccine after recovering, are considered protected and will only need to isolate until they get the results of a PCR test taken upon arrival, or a maximum of 24 hours, unless they come from a red country.

Several Health Ministry officials have clarified to the Post that this does not apply to individuals vaccinated or recovered abroad, even if they take a serological test and receive Israeli documentation. These include thousands of first-degree relatives of citizens who received permission to visit their loved ones.

The official guidelines by the Health Ministry do not specify that people need to be vaccinated in Israel to be exempt from quarantine, but they do require that the recovery certificate be issued based on a PCR test. This appears to exclude visitors whose certificates were issued after a serological test.

However, Coronavirus Commissioner Prof. Salman Zarka said in an interview with the Post that the policy is going to change after the holidays to allow individuals who meet the new criteria but have been inoculated abroad to be exempt from quarantine.

Maayan Hoffman contributed to this report.



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Jenny Oslen

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