Tourists of all ages will be allowed into Israel regardless of vaccination status starting on March 1, subject to a negative PCR test before takeoff and after landing, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday.
An end to nasal swabs
The decision was announced following a meeting between Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, with the participation of Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov and others, in which they finalized an outline for the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
The new plan also will end isolation policies for unvaccinated Israelis entering the country, subject to a negative PCR test upon arrival.
Furthermore, Israelis entering the country will no longer be required to perform an antigen or PCR test ahead of boarding a flight and will instead only be required to take a PCR test upon arrival.
The decision will come into effect starting on March 1.
Several significant changes will also be made to COVID-19 policies in the education system.
Starting this Thursday, February 24, children in middle school will no longer be required to perform twice-weekly antigen tests. Two weeks later, starting on March 10, the requirement will be abolished for children in elementary school.
“We are seeing a constant decline in the morbidity data, so it is time to gradually open up that which we were the first in the world to close,” Bennett said at the meeting. “In order to maintain the public's trust and ensure that the citizens of Israel follow the guidelines and the decisions that the government makes, it is necessary to open up when the situation improves, and it has improved significantly.
“The situation in Israel is good at the moment. It is a result of proper and dynamic management, which is also why we are opening up now. At the same time, we will keep our fingers on the pulse, and in case of a new variant, we will again respond quickly.”
A happy Purim ahead?
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai welcomed the opening of Israel’s skies, in line with recommendations he made last week.
“Opening Israel’s skies is a very welcome step and will help reunite families from around the world with their loved ones in Israel,” he said in response to the news.
“Last week, I recommended to Prime Minister Bennett that Israel allow unvaccinated children into the country to enable families to reunite, particularly ahead of the Passover holiday, which is such a crucial time for families to be together, as well as for the upcoming Purim festivities,” Shai said.
Former MK Dov Lipman, founder and CEO of Yad L’Olim, thanked the government for its decision to fully reopen Israel to tourists for the first time since March 2020.
“We have been bombarded by tens of thousands of people who want to enter Israel but didn’t qualify according to the rules,” he said. “All agree to test and quarantine if they test positive.
After two very difficult years, they just want to enter the Holy Land. I have been sharing these messages with our leaders and pushing for change. I can literally hear the collective sigh of relief from all around the world that is coming from today’s announcement.”
A total of 10,354 new coronavirus cases were recorded on Saturday, with a positive return rate of 20.61% for the 50,244 PCR and antigen tests taken throughout the day, the Health Ministry reported Sunday.
There was a slight increase in serious cases compared with Friday, rising to 832 from 822, including 317 patients in critical condition, with 265 intubated and 28 connected to ECMO machines, it said.
The R-rate remained steady at 0.67 for the third day in a row.
Since the start of the pandemic, 9,841 coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded in Israel, with 168 of them occurring over the past seven days. The number of deaths decreased 56.9% over the past week, compared with the previous week.
More than 3.5 million Israelis have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The real number is likely much higher because many cases go undetected or unreported.
On January 18, Israel passed the two-million mark, meaning that 1.5 million of all recorded COVID-19 cases have occurred within the past month.