Israel will remove the last three countries remaining on its list of destinations categorized as "red" because of their high COVID-19 infection rates.
With the removal of Bulgaria, Brazil and Turkey from the list, starting on Monday there will be no more countries on the list of places Israelis cannot visit because of the pandemic regardless of their vaccination status. The cabinet approved the countries' removal from the list on Friday, following the recommendation of a Health Ministry committee advising it on the issue.
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Last month, the government exempted people considered immune – those who had received a booster shot or a second shot within the previous six months, or who had recovered within the previous six months – from full quarantine when returning from abroad, requiring them to self-isolate for 24 hours or until they receive a negative test. Travel to "red" countries has remained forbidden.
Key metrics have suggested that Israel's current wave of coronavirus infections is on the decline. Serious cases hit an almost six-week low on Friday, falling to 586. The R number – the number of people each coronavirus carrier infects – also reached its lowest point since May. The number, which reflects the average from the previous 10 days, now stands at 0.72, showing that the outbreak is shrinking.
Almost 78,000 Israelis received the booster shot against coronavirus on Thursday, the highest figure in almost a month. On top of this, another 20,000 people received either their first or second dose of the inoculation on Thursday. The rush to vaccinate comes ahead of Israel's new requirements for its so-called green pass. From Sunday, Israelis must have received their third jab of the coronavirus vaccine, or their second dose in the past 6 months, to have their pass reissued. As of Friday, some 1.5 million Israelis will be ineligible for the new vaccine passport.
On Friday, the Health Ministry's director-general, Prof. Nachman Ash, told the 103FM radio station that he didn't think that additional restrictions were required if current trends continued. When asked if the fourth wave is coming to an end, he responded: "We are on the way...but I say this with a lot of caution."