Thousands of Israelis Return From COVID Hotspot Moscow, Flouting Travel Ban

Dozens of the returning Israelis tested positive for coronavirus while Health Ministry officials say they were pressed to remove Russia from the list of high-risk countries

Arrivals hall in Ben Gurion International Airport
Arrivals hall in Ben Gurion International AirportCredit: Hadas Parush

Almost 5,000 Israelis returned from Moscow over the last month, even as the Russian capital was undergoing a surge in COVID-19 cases, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported Tuesday.

Thirty-one of the returning passengers tested positive for the virus.

Bibi brought Iran closer than ever to a nuke. Can Bennett fix it? LISTEN to Amos Harel

According to Health Ministry directives, travel to high-risk countries must be approved by the ministry's exemptions committee, but in fact the ban is barely enforced. Health Ministry officials revealed to Yedioth that they were under pressure to remove Russia from the high-risk list during the Netanyahu administration.

New cases have surged across Russia and particularly in Moscow, which on Saturday registered a record 9,120 daily cases, Reuters reported.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced on Monday that Israel will issue large fines for Israelis who travel to barred countries, which include Russia, India, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and South Africa. The new regulations are due to come into effect in the coming days.

While "the situation in Israel is different from the rest of the world," Horowitz said, "[We] have to do whatever is necessary to contain the spread of strains."

The announcement came as Israel is experiencing several local coronavirus outbreaks. In two schools, nine staff members contracted COVID-19 even though they are vaccinated.

Due to the uptick in coronavirus cases, the town of Binyamina-Givat Ada in central Israel has been declared a "yellow" zone, with a moderate coronavirus infection rate, on the so-called traffic light system developed by the Health Ministry.

This was the first local authority to be defined as such since May, when all cities and zones in Israel were declared green.

On Monday afternoon, after a situation assessment on the new outbreak, Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the Israel Defense Forces, Home Front Command and defense establishment to prepare to renew its coronavirus testing efforts, and not to close the contact tracing department as originally planned.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

$1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

A family grieves outside the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on Wednesday.

Israeli PM Offers Condolences After Texas Gunman Kills 21 at Elementary School

U.S. President Joe Biden, this week.

Biden Decides to Keep Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Terror List, Says Report

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

Progressive Jews Urge ADL Chief to Apologize for Calling Out Democratic Activist

Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders with Jessica Cisneros in San Antonio last week.

It’s AIPAC vs. Bernie Sanders in Too-close-to-call Texas Democratic Runoff

U.S. President Joe Biden. Making a historic pivot to Asia.

Biden Does What His Three Predecessors Talked About Yet Failed to Do

Meir Kahane addressing his followers during a demonstration in Jerusalem, in 1984.

Why the U.S. Removed Kahane Chai From Terrorist Blacklist