Vaccinated tourists will be allowed to enter Israel starting on May 23, the Health and Tourism ministries announced Tuesday.
In the first phase, only individuals traveling in groups will be able to enter the country, as they are considered easier to monitor. The authorities will decide whether to also include regular visitors based on the results of the pilot with groups, the ministries said in a statement.
Those who wish to travel to Israel will have to undergo a PCR test before boarding the flight, as well as a PCR test and a serological test upon arrival at the airport. The PCR test indicates whether an individual is carrying the virus; the serological test determines the presence of antibodies in their blood.
Currently, Israel does not recognize any foreign vaccination or recovery certificate, although the authorities are in negotiations with several countries about the matter. Anyone who is vaccinated abroad is still required to enter quarantine until they undergo a serological test. The requirement of a serological test will be lifted when those agreements are reached, the ministries said.
The Health Ministry is examining whether to make a fast serological testing complex at Ben-Gurion Airport, a ministry representative told The Jerusalem Post last week.
A PCR testing facility is already operating at the airport to test to all arriving travelers. The results are ready in 14 hours or less.
On Tuesday, the government said the facility would be expanded.
Israel’s borders have been closed to foreign citizens for a year, with very limited exceptions. Last week, the government announced that foreigners who have a first-degree relative who is a citizen or a permanent resident of Israel could enter the country, undergoing a procedure similar to the one required for vaccinated tourists.
“Israel is the first vaccinated nation, and the citizens of Israel have been the first to enjoy it,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said. “[Now that we have] opened our economy, it is time to facilitate tourism in a considered and careful manner.”
“The opening of tourism is an important development for one of the industries that during the pandemic year was hit the hardest,” he said. “We will continue to examine additional [easing of the regulations] in accordance with the morbidity data.”
Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen said: “The time has come for Israel to enjoy the advantage of being a safe and healthy country and for this to help rehabilitate the Israeli economy and the tourism industry and not other economies.”
“Only the opening of incoming international tourism will really succeed in bringing back the tourism, restaurant [and] hospitality [sectors],” she said. “I will continue to push for a full return of inbound tourism to Israel, which will greatly assist the Israeli economy and provide jobs that are greatly needed by many people.”
Israel has registered fewer than 300 coronavirus cases a day for the past week. Some 217 people were identified as virus carriers on Monday, with 0.4% of the 60,000 tests performed having positive results, a rate in line with previous days and similar to last May.
The number of patients in serious condition further decreased and stood at 240, the lowest since July.
As of Tuesday morning, the death toll stood at 6,305, with three people succumbing in the previous 24 hours.