Israel to Lift COVID Travel Restrictions on Most Countries, but Not U.S., U.K., South Africa

As of Thursday, the list of 'red' countries with high coronavirus infections rates will shrink from 70 to 15, with Mexico to be added to it. Meanwhile, Israel mulls amending quarantine rules

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Ben Gurion International Airport, in December.
Ben Gurion International Airport, in December. Credit: Tomer Applebaum

Israel is set to lift its travel ban on most African countries and some destinations in Europe, the Health Ministry said on Monday. The United States and 13 other countries with high coronavirus infection rates will remain on Israel's list of "red" destinations.

A Health Ministry panel said that Mexico will be added to the list on Thursday, effectively barring travel to and from it.

Apart from the United States, travel restrictions will remain in place for the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Turkey, France, Switzerland, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Tanzania and Nigeria.

Travel to and from so-called "red countries" is expressly forbidden, unless permission is granted by a special committee. Those who return from the blacklisted countries must enter a seven-day quarantine.  

The latest amendment to the list is pending a formal approval by the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

All other destinations that are currently on the "red" list will be removed from it. These include Italy, Germany, Ireland, Morocco, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium.

Meanwhile, Israel is mulling amending its quarantine rules. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said at a cabinet meeting Monday that his ministry is re-examining regulations for returning travelers.

An expert panel advising the government on the pandemic said on Sunday that Israel was rapidly approaching a point at which travel ban restrictions will be rendered useless.

“When Israel becomes a ‘red’ country, with thousands of local infections with omicron, there is no reason to fear a person leaving another ‘red’ country – after all, here he would be exposed with the same likelihood,” the committee's report said. It called on the government to prepare for revoking travel restrictions altogether.

Also on Monday, Israel tightened its regulations on public access to shopping and commercial centers and updated its guidelines on COVID booster shots, as infection rates are soaring in the country.

Israel recorded 1,760 new coronavirus cases on Monday, also logging 87 active serious cases. The number marks a slight decline from Sunday's figure, which stood at 96. However, the number of new seriously ill patients has been steadily climbing over the past five days.

The R number, which marks the average number of people a carrier of the virus infects, has been on the rise throughout December and stood at 1.41 on Monday, after hitting a three-month peak on Sunday. The figure reflects Health Ministry data up to 10 days prior.

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