COVID-19 in Israel: Airport restrictions removed as Bennett plans overhaul

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is reportedly planning to remove all Omicron restrictions currently in place in Israel by March 1.

 Travellers seen at the Ben Gurion International Airport, on December 22, 2021.  (photo credit: FLASH90)
Travellers seen at the Ben Gurion International Airport, on December 22, 2021.
(photo credit: FLASH90)

Several COVID-19 restrictions on traveling and tourism will be removed by Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, after an agreement was reached on Wednesday evening with ministry officials, according to Israeli media.

The requirement to present negative COVID-19 tests prior to boarding a return flight to Israel will be canceled as part of the agreement. However, travelers will still be required to take the test after landing at Ben-Gurion Airport.

In addition, mandatory quarantine for unvaccinated Israelis returning from abroad will be scrapped.

This is the first step of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s reported plan to remove by March 1 all Omicron restrictions currently in place. A meeting will take place on Thursday to finalize the plan to gradually remove restrictions, an N12 report stated, and the first phase may come into effect as soon as next week.

Israel could now be reopening to tourists, including children who have not been allowed in due to vaccination rules. Following that, the last of the Green Pass restrictions will be removed. For now, the report said, the current restrictions in the education system and the indoor mask mandate will remain in place, but this will be reconsidered next week.

  COVID-19 rapid antigen test (credit: FLICKR) COVID-19 rapid antigen test (credit: FLICKR)

There were 20,340 new COVID-19 infections detected in Israel on Tuesday, with a positive return rate of 18.73% for the 108,571 PCR and antigen tests taken, Health Ministry data showed on Wednesday morning.

The number of serious cases continues to drop, with 911 patients as of Wednesday evening. Of that number, 327 are in critical condition, with 271 intubated and an additional 28 on ECMO machines.

The R rate has fallen from the previous day by an additional 0.2 points, down to 0.68, and data indicate a 42.4% decrease in new daily cases in comparison with seven days prior.

The number of school children in quarantine has fallen dramatically over the last few weeks due to the new government testing system that replaced mandatory quarantine for all children who came in contact with a positive COVID-19 case.

As of Wednesday morning, the number of school-aged children and teens in quarantine was 1,789, in comparison with 3,894 children until age 19 who were in quarantine on February 1.

According to a report on Army Radio on Wednesday morning, while the testing plan has been extended for an additional two weeks, there are not enough rapid tests available for the children to fulfill testing requirements.

According to Army Radio, most children are lacking between one and four of the necessary tests. There are delays within the Health Ministry, the Education Ministry and Home Front Command, both in the procurement and distribution of tests.

Since the start of the pandemic, 9,687 COVID-19-related deaths have been recorded in Israel.