Rapid serological tests might become the key tool to reopen Israel to tourism, sources within the government told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Israel has been closed to foreign citizens since March 2020 with very limited exceptions.
As the situation in the country dramatically improved thanks to the success of the vaccination campaign, the coronavirus cabinet at the beginning of March tasked the Health, Transportation and Tourism ministries to develop a plan to allow visitors who have been fully vaccinated or recovered to enter the country.
However, according to government sources, the Health Ministry has been very hesitant to trust vaccination or recovery certificates from other nations, even though several countries, including Cyprus and Greece, have already said they recognize Israeli-issued documents and that incoming Israelis will not need to enter isolation.
For this reason, the authorities are considering other solutions, including deploying at the airport saliva serological tests that do not require blood work and offer results in about 15 minutes.
Currently, Israelis who have been vaccinated abroad and enter the country can undergo a regular serological test and be released from the mandatory quarantine if antibodies are found in their blood.
Allowing in visitors from countries with a high vaccination rate has also been examined.
On Tuesday, the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority said starting on Wednesday, those who are vaccinated or recovered and have a first-degree relative in Israel would be allowed to enter the country.
The move is part of the goal of allowing more tourists into Israel, Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen said Tuesday.
“Starting tomorrow, vaccinated family members will be able to visit their relatives in Israel,” she told the Post. “This is important news to many thousands of new immigrants and lone soldiers and is a first step in the resumption of healthy, vaccinated tourism to Israel.”
“Recent conversations with the health minister have been productive, and I believe we will soon publish the plan to reopen the skies and allow vaccinated tourists to visit Israel,” she said.