New COVID travel restrictions? Bennett and Horowitz discuss next steps

Officials are considering allowing fully vaccinated or recently recovered Israelis to once again return from yellow countries to Israel and only have to take a PCR test on arrival.

 RETURNING ISRAELIS at Ben-Gurion Airport this week. Why were foreign travelers banned? (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
RETURNING ISRAELIS at Ben-Gurion Airport this week. Why were foreign travelers banned?
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz on Monday began discussing what the policies will be for testing and isolation of Israeli travelers returning to Israel once the current set of restrictions are over.

Originally, the government said it would only close the airport for up to two weeks. However, a decision has not yet been made as to when the restrictions will be terminated. A situation assessment is expected to be held later in the week and decisions made based on data about the Omicron variant in Israel and around the world.

For now, officials are considering allowing fully vaccinated or recently recovered Israelis to once again return from yellow countries to Israel and only have to take a PCR test on arrival. Returnees would be asked to stay in isolation until a negative result is obtained or 24 hours passes, whichever is first. Until the discovery of the Omicron variant, this was already the policy. 

At the same time, these vaccinated and recovered individuals would be allowed to return from orange countries and only vaccinate 24 hours. However, a PCR test would be required both at landing and on day three. 

Immunized returnees from red states would be required to isolate for seven days, taking a PCR test on landing and on day seven.

 Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz pictured on August 13, 2021.  (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90) Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz pictured on August 13, 2021. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

Unvaccinated Israelis would remain subject to stricter restrictions, including a seven-day isolation period when returning from yellow, orange or red states. PCR tests would have to be taken on days one and seven.

However, anyone unvaccinated returning from a red state would need to be isolated in a state-run coronavirus hotel for at least 24 hours, until a negative PCR result is received. After that, so long as the individuals sign in writing that they will stay in isolation at home, they can leave the hotel.

Israel quickly closed its airports to foreigners late last month after the discovery of the first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Israel. Since then, 20 more cases have been diagnosed in Israel. 

The prime minister declared that the country was “on the verge of a state of emergency” upon hearing about the variant entering Israel, and quickly labeled more than 50 African countries red.