Israel Lifts COVID State of Emergency, Lets Unvaccinated Tourists Enter

Israel cancels most remaining COVID restrictions, including regular tests for schoolchildren

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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Passenger walk inside the arrivals area of Ben Gurion international Airport.
Passenger walk inside the arrivals area of Ben Gurion international Airport. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

As of Tuesday, unvaccinated tourists will be able to enter Israel subject to two PCR tests for COVID – before takeoff and after landing, while Israelis will only need one PCR test, after landing. Returning Israelis will not need an antigen test before takeoff as before.

Unvaccinated Israelis will not have to quarantine when they return from abroad, subject to a negative PCR test taken on landing. Mask-wearing will still be required in enclosed spaces.

According to a government decision passed this month to ease COVID restrictions, beginning March 10, elementary schoolchildren and kindergartners will no longer have to take weekly COVID tests. Weekly testing was canceled for middle-school children from February 24.

About three weeks ago the so-called Green Passport requirements were lifted, except for venues where the risk of contagion is high, including event halls and open-air event venues, clubs, conference centers, places where food is served and places holding cultural events at which attendees are not seated. Restrictions on numbers of people at gatherings have also been lifted, as well as the requirement to set tables 1.5 meters apart in open-air or enclosed restaurants.

According to the government decision, masks are still required in enclosed places. Health Ministry officials said that despite the decline in infections, at this point the ministry is not discussing the lifting of the mask mandate, given that the number of new infections is still over 10,000 a day, and that this restriction involves no economic price or damage to routine – and is an efficient means of preventing infection.

However, if the decline in new infections continues, the issue will become more relevant and will be reevaluated. According to Health Ministry officials, mask mandates might eventually be restricted to enclosed spaces where there is contact with a high-risk population.

“At this point it is recommended not to change the recommendation to wear a mask in enclosed spaces, especially in the education system,” a summary of a meeting of the Health Ministry panel of experts stated about two weeks ago. “We do not know at what point the balance of risks will justify making masks voluntary at sites that do not include a population at risk.”

COVID is on the decline in Israel. The number of new infections as of Sunday was 10,761 per day, and the R-number stood at 0.7. There are currently 580 seriously ill hospitalized COVID patients, of whom 246 are in critical condition. The daily number of deaths from COVID is also declining and on Sunday stood at six per day. Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Israel, 10,154 patients with COVID have died.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday the government is to lift the state of emergency declared at the beginning of the pandemic. It will be replaced by a “special health situation” for three months. Thus the government will implement the powers accorded it by the new COVID law passed by the Knesset last month. The law allows the government to continue to impose restrictions on the public if a state of emergency is declared.

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