COVID-19: Israel starts accepting antigen tests to enter the country

Beginning Friday, travelers will be able to undergo a rapid test 24 hours before takeoff instead of a more cumbersome PCR test.

 Magen David worker take a COVID-19 rapid antigen test from Israelis, at a Magen David Adom testing center in Jerusalem, on September 26, 2021.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Magen David worker take a COVID-19 rapid antigen test from Israelis, at a Magen David Adom testing center in Jerusalem, on September 26, 2021.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Israel will start to accept corona antigen tests – also known as rapid tests – from inbound travelers beginning on Friday, the Health Ministry announced after the corona cabinet approved the change.

According to current rules, all passengers traveling to the country are required to present a negative PCR test performed no more than 72 hours earlier in order to be allowed to board the plane. With the new outline, rapid tests are also going to be accepted, provided that they are done no earlier than 24 hours before takeoff. PCRs will continue to be accepted.

Antigen tests are considered less sensitive than PCRs but are cheaper and more accessible, with results ready within minutes as opposed to hours or days.

The ministry clarified that the test needs to be performed in a professional framework, and home antigen tests will not be accepted. In addition, the results will need to be in English.

All travelers arriving in Israel, citizens and foreign nationals alike, will still be required to undergo a PCR test at the airport upon landing.

 Health worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary Clalit health care center in Jerusalem, September 30, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Health worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary Clalit health care center in Jerusalem, September 30, 2021. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

In addition, the change is not impacted by vaccination status.

Regarding foreign nationals, only those who have been inoculated twice within the previous six months or vaccinated with a booster can travel to Israel, provided they have not visited a “red” country in the previous two weeks. No country is currently considered red.

Individuals who have recovered and received one shot, or recovered within the past six months, can also enter the country if they hold a European Union digital recovery certificate. Israel and another dozen non-EU countries have joined a consortium for mutual recognition of such corona documents.

Israeli citizens can always travel to Israel, but if they do not meet the same criteria, they will need to quarantine for at least one week.

In addition, Israelis who are not considered protected against the virus are required to undergo a PCR test before leaving the country, and in that case, an antigen test will still not be accepted.