All American travelers arriving in Israel now have to enter quarantine for at least seven days, following the implementation of new regulations Wednesday following a spike in COVID cases locally.
The measure was approved by a Knesset panel last Wednesday and was initially set to go into effect two days later. However, it was delayed until August 11 following widespread public criticism.
The total number of countries listed as either red (from which travel is forbidden) or orange (for which there are travel warnings and require quarantine) now totals 42.
Travelers returning from countries not on this list are required to stay in isolation for 24 hours or until the receipt of a negative COVID test.
Under the new rules, travelers from 18 countries, including the United States, Ukraine, Italy, Iceland, Germany, Netherlands, Greece, Egypt, Czech Republic, France and Tunisia, are required to quarantine for at least seven days with at least two negative COVID tests.
In total, over 40 countries are listed as either red (from which travel is forbidden) or orange (for which there are travel warnings and require quarantine). People returning from countries not on this list are required to stay in isolation for 24 hours or until the receipt of a negative COVID test.
Starting next Monday, all foreign travelers from Spain, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, Georgia and Bulgaria will be prohibited from entering Israel. People who spent less than 12 hours in an airport in these countries will not be banned.
Travelers who break quarantine are subject to a fine of 5,000 shekels (around $1,500).
Delta, United and El Al Airlines have all confirmed that, despite the new restrictions, they will not be reducing the number of flights from the United States to Israel.
The announcement of the regulations last week set off a wave of trip cancellations and a scramble to enter Israel before the August 11 deadline.
Laura Ben David, an American resident of the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, said last week that the new regulations almost derailed plans for her son Eitan’s wedding on August 17, forcing her to spend nearly $1,000 extra to bring her younger son Ezra back early enough so he would not miss the ceremony due to being quarantined.
The implementation of the new restriction on U.S. travelers comes two days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added Israel to its highest risk level, advising American citizens to avoid traveling there.
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The CDC raised Israel to a “Level 4: Very High Level of COVID-19” classification, advising Americans that if they must travel to Israel, to ensure they are fully vaccinated before traveling. It also warned that because of the current situation in Israel and the spike of cases there due to the delta variant, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.
The classification came hours after reports emerged that Israel was considering adding the United States to its list of countries from which citizens were barred from visiting.
Last month, Israel reduced the mandatory quarantine period to seven days, following the Health Ministry’s recommendations, and banned non-travelers – with the exception of those accompanying a minor or a person with special needs – from entering the airport’s arrivals hall.
In mid-July, coronavirus czar Nachman Ash urged Israelis to refrain from traveling abroad due to the spread of the highly contagious delta variant, declaring that those who do so “are putting themselves and their families at risk.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has also recommended that Israelis avoid nonessential trips abroad. However, June saw 301,000 passengers flying out of Tel Aviv – a record for the pandemic months. July, meanwhile, saw 536,336 passengers arrive in Israel, some 70 percent of whom were either vaccinated or had recovered from COVID-19.
Israel reported 5,755 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, according to data published by the Health Ministry.
The number of serious cases in Israel topped Monday’s six-month high, with 400 cases. Data released by the ministry this week showed that despite a recent increase in the number of serious cases in Israel, including among the fully vaccinated, those who received both doses of the vaccine against COVID-19 are significantly less likely to experience severe illness.
As of August 8, the ministry recorded a rate of 85.6 severe COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people among the unvaccinated over the age of 60, compared to 16.3 cases per 100,000 people among the fully vaccinated. This makes the unvaccinated elderly more than five times as likely to experience a severe case than their immunized counterparts.
For those under the age of 60, the rate of severe illness among the unvaccinated stood at 1.4 cases per 100,000 people – 2.8 times more than the 0.5 per 100,000 among those who received two doses of the vaccine.
More than 5.8 million Israelis have received their first vaccine; 5.4 million have received two second shots and nearly 65,000 have received a third booster shot.