Israel Is Reopening to Tourists. Here's How It Will Sanction COVID Transgressors

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Signs point to the COVID-19 testing area at Ben-Gurion International Airport, in June.
Signs point to the COVID-19 testing area at Ben-Gurion International Airport, in June.Credit: Hadas Parush

With Israel opening its borders to vaccinated tourists in the coming days, the Health Ministry has recommended a set of potential sanctions aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus by people arriving from abroad.

In a letter outlining its view on how to handle tourists who break public health rules, the ministry recommended that foreigners arriving in Israel without meeting the criteria for entry be deported to their countries of origin. It also instructed the Population and Immigration Authority “to consider imposing a sanction on entry to Israel” in such cases.

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz recently approved a new policy allowing tourists who are fully vaccinated with recognized vaccines into Israel starting on November 1.

Under the ministry’s recommended sanctions, foreigners who violate mandatory quarantine will be forbidden from entering the country for three years, while an infected foreigner who refuses to isolate in a quarantine hotel or leaves isolation will be blacklisted for five years.

The ministry also recommended that any foreigner who entered Israel or attempted to enter Israel with forged documentation related to the pandemic will be banned from the country for five years, and that someone who stays in Israel more than 180 days after being vaccinated or recovering also be barred from entering.

Under the government’s initial plan, tourists are considered fully vaccinated if they:

• Have received the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least seven days earlier, and will leave the country within 180 days.

• Have received the second dose of the Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccines at least 14 days earlier, and will leave the country within 180 days.

• Have received one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine at least 14 days earlier, and will leave the country within 180 days.

• Have received a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot at least seven days earlier.

• Have received a third dose of the Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sinovac or Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine at least 14 days earlier.

• Have recovered and presented proof of a negative test taken at least 11 days earlier, and will leave the country within 180 days.

• Have recovered and have received at least one dose of a vaccine that has been approved by the World Health Organization.

On Wednesday, Israel updated these criteria to allow tourists inoculated with the Russian-made Sputnik V jab into the country from November 15, provided they present an antibody test. The announcement was made following a meeting between Bennett and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi this past weekend.

Health officials had initially recommended delaying recognition of the Russian vaccine upon the arrival in Israel of the new COVID-19 sub-strain known as AY.4.2,and Israeli officials told Haaretz that the decision to allow tourists vaccinated with Sputnik V had been the result of recent pressure by Russian officials.

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