Israel will allow unvaccinated tourists of all ages to enter the country starting on March 1, after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz agreed on Sunday to lift several COVID restrictions.
“We are seeing a constant decline in morbidity data, so it is time to gradually open up,” Bennett said.
The change means that for the first time in almost two years, families with children aged 5 or younger can travel to Israel.
Incoming tourists will be required to undergo two PCR lab tests, one before departure and one upon landing in Israel.
Israelis returning from abroad will not need a rapid antigen test before boarding their planes, and will only need to take a PCR lab test upon arrival. In addition, unvaccinated Israelis will no longer have to quarantine upon arrival, as long as they have a negative PCR test at the airport in Israel.
In schools, middle school students will no longer need to be tested every week, beginning on February 24. Elementary schools will end the weekly testing requirement starting on March 10.
Drop in serious cases halts
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The infection rate and the number of serious COVID cases in Israel were largely unchanged over the past couple of days, official figures released on Sunday show, after a steady decline in these metrics for several weeks.
The total number of new confirmed cases continued to drop significantly, according to the Health Ministry, with 10,354 on Saturday, compared with 12,583 on Friday and 18,045 the previous Saturday, in a further sign the omicron wave is waning.
There are 832 serious cases in Israel as of Sunday morning – 10 more cases than on Saturday – with 317 of them in critical condition. While the curve of serious cases has plateaued during the last couple of days, there is an overall decrease of 36.7 percent compared with the previous week.
The R number, which shows how many people each COVID carrier infects on average, is still well below 1, meaning that the pandemic is shrinking, but has remained at 0.67 for three days in a row. The latest number is calculated using data from 10 days prior.
Bennett announced on Thursday that the Green Pass, Israel's digital vaccination passport, is set to expire on March 1 and will not be extended, as “the omicron wave has been broken” and Israel is witnessing a steep decline in the number of serious patients.
The Green Pass limited entry to indoor venues and large gatherings to people who had recovered from coronavirus or received at least three doses of the vaccine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.