Israel will begin allowing vaccinated tourists into the country starting on May 23, but only in organized groups, Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen said on Tuesday.
Since the outbreak of the global pandemic in March 2020, only Israeli citizens, alongside rare exceptions for non-citizens, have been allowed into the country.
Farkash-Hacohen said that within 72 hours of boarding their flights to Israel, all tourists would be required to undergo coronavirus tests and an antibody test to prove they were vaccinated or recovered, and then be tested again upon landing. In the first stage, the number of tourists allowed into the country each day will be capped.
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At this initial stage of relaunching Israel's tourism, only groups will be allowed as they are easier to monitor, a joint statement from the health and tourism ministries said. Assuming that infection rates did not rise, the tourism minister said, Israel would gradually open its border to individual travelers as well.
“I will continue to push to open the country to tourism, which will help the economy considerably and create sorely-needed jobs for so many Israelis today,” she said.
The decision to start allowing foreigners into Israel was reached in agreement with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and his professional staff.
Last week, Israel began allowing select groups of non-residents who have relatives in the country to enter. Overseas visitors will be required to obtain approval in advance to fly to Israel from either the Interior Ministry or their local Israeli consulate.
“It is high time, considering that we are a vaccinated country, that we help rehabilitate Israel’s economy and tourism industry, rather than those of other countries,” Farkash-Hacohen tweeted last week.
Since Israel entered its first lockdown in March 2020, non-residents – with odd exceptions – have not been allowed into the country. In late January, as part of the third lockdown, even Israeli citizens were prevented from entering. However, that particular restriction was lifted a few weeks ago.