Israel’s Surge in Coronavirus Cases Stymies Revival of Tourism With Greece and Cyprus

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Israeli El Al planes are parked at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, July 6, 2020.
Israeli El Al planes are parked at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, July 6, 2020.Credit: Ariel Schalit,AP

Israeli airlines will not be resuming flights to Greece and Cyprus as scheduled, after a stretch in which Israel has suffered as many as 1,000 new coronavirus cases a day, Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir said Monday.

Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the country’s target date for resuming flights and tourism was August 1, with Greece and Cyprus the first destinations. But last week, Brussels said Israel was not among the 14 countries whose citizens would be allowed into EU countries.

“The way things look now, it’s off the table. There’s nothing I’d like more than open skies and people at work, with a recovering economy, but looking at the number of infections, you realize the situation we’re in and what it looks like to the world,” Zamir told Kan Bet public radio.

Israeli Tourism Minister Asaf Zamir.Credit: Moti Milrod

“Since we’re open about it and release the numbers for everyone to see, the world can determine whether we’re ‘friendly’ or not in terms of resuming flights and tourism.”

Netanyahu made his statement two weeks ago while meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, after Greece announced that it would allow Israeli tourists in. Officials at the transportation and foreign ministries then started working with their counterparts in Greece and Cyprus to plan the revival of tourism with the two countries.

But a few days later, the COVID-19 crisis in Israel began to significantly worsen, with Cyprus and Montenegro relegating Israel to the group whose citizens would have to prove a negative coronavirus test before being allowed entry.

In the higher group, travelers would not need to quarantine upon arrival or return.

The European Union’s list of countries considered safe excludes the United States, Brazil, Russia, Turkey and Israel because the incidence of coronavirus infections in these countries is higher than the average in the European Union.

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