Arrivals From Growing List of Countries to Require Quarantine Upon Entering Israel

Israel's Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz says government not talking about closing the Ben-Gurion Airport as COVID cases spread, but that more countries will likely enter the blacklist

Sam Sokol
Sam Sokol
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Outgoing travelers at Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport, on Sunday.
Outgoing travelers at Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport, on Sunday.Credit: Hadas Parush
Sam Sokol
Sam Sokol

The number of incoming passengers required to quarantine upon arrival in Israel is slated to increase significantly this week, when the government is expected to add 11 nations to its list of countries requiring mandatory isolation.

According to the Ministry of Health, pending government approval, Britain, Cyprus, Turkey, Georgia, Uganda, Myanmar, Fiji, Panama, Cambodia, Kenya and Liberia will be added to a list of countries that require a mandatory one-week quarantine for returning travelers.

Arrivals from the United Arab Emirates, the Seychelles, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Kyrgyzstan and Tunisia are already subject to this requirement, which was shortened last week by the coronavirus cabinet from ten to seven days.

Passengers from all other countries, including those are who vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19, are required to quarantine until the receipt of a negative PCR test or for 24-hours, whichever comes first.

Travelers who break quarantine are subject to a fine of NIS 5,000 (around $1,500 USD).

Travel to and from Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, India, Mexico, Russia, Belarus and Uzbekistan is currently prohibited. Spain and Kyrgyzstan are expected to be added to the banned list on Friday.

At the beginning of May, the previous government approved Health Ministry regulations banning travel by Israelis to a number of countries with especially high rates of coronavirus infection.  According to the regulations, an Israeli citizen may travel to one of the countries on the “red” list only if they live there permanently, or if they have approval from the committee.

Last month, the Airports Authority reported that the number of passengers on private flights increased by about 20 percent from the beginning of the year compared to the same period in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic broke out. Passengers on private flights appear to have been exempt from the restrictions imposed on commercial air traffic.

The Health Ministry recently announced that it was pushing back opening Israel up to vaccinated tourists after having previously stated that they would be allowed in starting on August 1. 

At the end of last month, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked raised the possibility of an airport closure in the event of a significant rise in infection, and a government source told Haaretz on Sunday that Jerusalem was considering restricting travel abroad in light of the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus.

However, the Ynet news site reported on Monday that Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz had told officials that the government was “not talking about closing down Ben Gurion Airport,” even as the likelihood increases that “more countries will soon enter the blacklist.”

On Sunday, Health Ministry director-general Nachman Ash warned that now was not the time for non-essential travel abroad, and that international travel risked bringing in new variants. 

Ash’s warning came after June saw 301,000 people passengers flying out of Ben Gurion International Airport, a record since the coronavirus pandemic began. This was twice the level of May, which  also showed a drop in travel because of the fighting in the Gaza Strip, according to data from the Israel Airports Authority.

However, operations at Ben Gurion are still very far from what used to be normal. In June 2019, 1.1 million outgoing passengers flew out from the airport – over three times the number recorded in the same period this year. 

Israel saw 836 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, data from the health ministry revealed on Monday, with 66 COVID patients in serious condition. 

The rate of positive COVID tests stands at 1.71 percent, a slight increase from Saturday's data where 1.46 percent of tests returned a positive result. 

Israel's daily COVID infections reached four figures for the first time since March on Saturday evening. According to ministry data, 1,118 people were diagnosed with COVID on Friday, with 855 diagnosed the day before.

Addressing the cabinet on Monday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that while the world was being “colored red” by the Delta variant of the coronavirus, the government’s goal “is to safeguard life and daily routines.”

Bennett called on people to get vaccinated and wear masks, calling it Israelis’ “civic duty” and asserting that “whoever does not get vaccinated is endangering himself, his family, his friends, the livelihood of those around him and the opening of the school year.”

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