Coronavirus Surge Imperils Israel's Chance to Get Green Light for Travel Abroad

Cyprus and Montenegro already downgraded Israel in their ranking for COVID-19 risk level, others may follow suit

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Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport, March 2020
Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport, March 2020Credit: Tomer Applebaum

Israeli officials fear that the recent rise in the number of coronavirus infections in the country will lead foreign countries and groups of states to downgrade its ranking for incoming tourism. 

Cyprus and Montenegro cut Israel’s rank from A to B last week, which will require Israelis to present proof of a negative blood test for the virus as a condition of entry.

The European Union is expected to draw up and issue standards for reopening the borders to citizens of non-Schengen Area countries in the near future. Israel has begun talks with a number of EU member states, including Austria, about easing the entry requirements for Israeli nationals. The recent rise in confirmed coronavirus cases in Israel could thwart these contacts, however, Israel Foreign Ministry officials say.

“There’s no doubt that observing the guidelines, social distancing and hygiene, are important. If we don’t do this, and the trend of the past few weeks continues, Israelis will have trouble traveling abroad,” Ilan Fluss, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Economic Division, told Haaretz.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that he’d like to “target August 1 as the date of opening the skies” to tourism, and that Greece and Cyprus will be the first destinations. He said this depended “on what happens in terms of the numbers of the pandemic, whether we keep it under control.”

The remarks were made in the joint briefing before Netanyahu’s meeting in Jerusalem Tuesday with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose country recently said it would allow Israeli tourists to visit.

In the wake of Netanyahu’s remarks, teams of professionals, led by the Foreign and Transportation ministries, began working with their counterparts in Greece and Cyprus on drafting and implementing a plan for renewing tourism between the countries in August – a time frame that seems unrealistic, in light of the current trend.

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