Israel tourism minister: ‘Ashamed Israel didn't develop COVID tracker'

Yoel Razvozov on closing the skies to foreigners – again. “The citizens will criticize us no matter what.”

 The nearly empty arrivals hall after the government barred tourists from entering the country, on November 28, 2021.  (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
The nearly empty arrivals hall after the government barred tourists from entering the country, on November 28, 2021.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Israel should be ashamed that it has not yet developed a civilian COVID tracking application, said Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov on Tuesday.

“Shame on us that we have not yet developed a civilian application,” Razvozov said. “Why should the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] be activated – as if it has nothing to do but locate people with coronavirus?”

The minister was speaking at the Maariv-Walla Business Summit in Herzliya, where he spoke about the government’s rushed decision to once again close the airport to foreigners amid the Omicron variant.

“If there were civilian apps, it would help us in the tourism industry,” he contended. “I brought it up more than once or twice. I will continue to insist on it.

“We cannot call ourselves the Start-Up Nation when we run the [Shin Bet] tracker.”

 View of coronavirus swab sampling booths at the Ben-Gurion International Airport on February 28, 2021.  (credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90) View of coronavirus swab sampling booths at the Ben-Gurion International Airport on February 28, 2021. (credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

The country had just opened up to individual tourists last month and, before many people could travel to the country, Israel once again banned foreigners from entering for at least two weeks.

During the event, a tour guide said that he was distributing food boxes to his colleagues who are out of work and suffering for nearly two years.

“I understand your plight,” Razvozov responded. “When we sit in meetings, everyone who brings home a salary cannot help but think of people who do not bring bread home. We are working on job security. It is difficult for me to separate out the tour guides from the 90,000 unemployed. Ideas have come up about how to handle this. There is money. Tour guides under the age of 45 received funds until the end of June and [those] over 45 until the end of October.”

But he also said that he was among the decision-makers who chose to once again close the skies to travelers, while around 40,000 Israelis have traveled in and out of the country since then.

“When you are among the decision-makers, you understand that you need to act quickly and maintain the health of the citizens of the State of Israel,” he said. “It is better for us to act quickly, close, locate the verified cases here and prevent waking up to another mass outbreak in a month.

“They [the citizens] will criticize us no matter what,” he said. “How to avoid it next time? We are getting better.”