Israel's Border With Sinai to Reopen for First Time After a Year

Starting Tuesday, up to 300 vaccinated, recovered Israelis will be allowed to cross into Sinai at the Taba border crossing each day through April 12

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A blue lagoon at Sinai, Egypt
A blue lagoon at Sinai, EgyptCredit: Ruslan Kalnitsky / Shutterstock.com

Israel approved Friday the reopening of the Taba border crossing into Egypt for Israelis who have been inoculated against COVID-19 or have recovered from the disease.

The resolution, which will allow Israelis to enter Sinai starting Tuesday by land via the crossing just southeast of Eilat for the first time in about a year, will be in effect through April 12.

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Passenger traffic will be limited to no more than 300 people per day in either direction. In addition to proof of vaccination or recovery from the coronavirus, Israeli citizens traveling to Egypt must present proof that they paid the exit fee for leaving Israel. Diplomats, non-citizens or permanent residents of Israel and anyone with a permit from the exemptions committee may also enter Sinai from Taba.

The crossing to Egypt has been closed to Israelis since March of last year due to the coronavirus. In 2020 a total of 34,000 Israelis entered Sinai through Taba, compared to nearly half a million in 2019. Until the closure of Ben-Gurion International Airport, Israelis were still allowed to use the Taba crossing, but when Ben-Gurion was closed to most traffic in January, the land crossing to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula was closed in both directions.

In related news, over the weekend the coronavirus cabinet approved a directive permitting air travel for vaccinated or recovered individuals who were exposed to a COVID-19 patient or who stayed in the same home as a person required to be in isolation. The coronavirus cabinet also resolved that an interministerial team will examine ways to increase the number of people entering and leaving the country.

An Egyptian soldier stands guard on a watch tower on the border between Israel and Egypt in 2010Credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

On Monday the government was slated to discuss the acquisition of over 30 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, the Health Ministry said on Sunday. However, the meeting was canceled by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who said it was because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud refused to discuss the appointment of a permanent justice minister.

The total cost is expected to reach 3.5 billion shekels ($1 billion) and these doses will bring the total number of bought for 2021 and 2022 to more than 60 million.

Israel has so far used 10 million doses in its vaccination drive and requires only a little over 2 more million doses to fully vaccinate its eligible population.

The COVID-19 infection rate, known as the R number – the average number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – has risen slightly from 0.59 to 0.6, according to Health Ministry data released on Sunday.

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