As COVID-19 infections continue to dwindle, Israel has lifted the indoor mask requirement and put out the welcome mat for individual tourists to come—but with a few caveats.
On Monday, Israel’s Health Ministry dropped the indoor mask requirement, with a few exceptions. Masks will still be required for those who are not vaccinated, who work with the elderly, who are going into quarantine, or are flying on an airplane.
And the pilot program allowing a few small groups of tourists back into the land after borders being closed for over a year due to the pandemic seems to be going well. So, Israeli authorities have announced individual tourists who have been vaccinated will be welcome starting July 1.
At this point, only vaccinated tourists—not those who have immunity through recovery from the virus—will be allowed in. Travelers will still have to be tested before and after the flight and take a serological test to validate that they have developed antibodies. Visitors have to quarantine until the blood work results are in, which is burdensome for travelers.
However, the serological test may not be required for tourists from “white countries”—nations considered a low risk for spreading the virus, according to Israel’s Health Ministry—if the new government stays with the plans set in motion by the previous administration.
Yoel Razvozov, the new tourism minister, said that opening the doors for tourists is his number one priority. “I see creating a correct and effective outline to bring back foreign tourists to Israel as my first mission in this position, obviously without endangering (the health of) Israeli citizens.”
Travel is already picking up. Last week, Ben Gurion International Airport was the busiest it’s been in a year, with 22,500 travelers—mostly Israelis headed abroad—passing through on Thursday. This number is significantly lower than the record-setting 115,000 travelers a day in the summer of 2019. But traffic is expected to steadily increase over the coming months.
Before the pandemic, in 2019, Israel had around 4.5 million visitors—almost a quarter of those came from North America—according to Hassan Madah, head of the Americas Department of Israel’s Tourism Ministry. “We hope that soon we can also go back to 2019 where we have tourists coming without doing anything, just booking a flight and hotel.”
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