Travelers need more than COVID-19 vaccine

Negative coronavirus test likely to be needed for foreign travel, since destination countries are more concerned about disease carriers.

President Reuven Rivlin is seen alongside the first person to receive the second dose of the Israel-made coronavirus vaccine at Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center. (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin is seen alongside the first person to receive the second dose of the Israel-made coronavirus vaccine at Ashkelon's Barzilai Medical Center.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Israel is the only country that has anything close to a so-called green passport. Next week, Israel plans to roll out a program of documentation on its citizens’ travel identification documents which shows that the traveler has had two rounds of the COVID-19 vaccine.   
Most other countries are requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test for entry. 
Salman Ahaliq of the Jalal Travel Agency in Bahrain told The Media Line that coronavirus entry restrictions require travelers to have a negative COVID-19 test before entering. A representative of Deira Travel And Tourist Agency Co. LLC in the United Arab Emirates told The Media Line that his country requires “a negative COVID test regardless of whether or not you have had the vaccine.”
However, Mark Feldman, CEO of Ziontours, says that even with the green passports, which he believes most countries will instate once they have enough citizens vaccinated, Israelis will still be required to show a negative COVID-19 test to enter countries such as Bahrain and Cyprus.   
“Even with the green passport, Israelis will still require a negative COVID-19 test to enter Bahrain, because we are still carriers even after we have had the two vaccinations. … I am still a carrier, even though it’s not affecting me, and I go to your country, I could infect a lot of people if I have COVID-19,” he told The Media Line. 
A green passport - which means that a traveler does not have to quarantine after his or her trip, is meant to be a travel incentive by making it easier for travelers when they return to their home countries, Feldman explains. 
“It is much more for… Israelis to travel abroad and to not have to quarantine here upon their return. It’s not going to have a lot of effect if you go to Greece or New York, which requires a negative COVID-19 test” to enter, Feldman said.
A spokesperson for Israel’s Ministry of Health told The Media Line: “Israelis who have received both doses of an approved vaccine, and starting the 8th day after the second dose, will not be subject to the mandatory quarantine upon their return to Israel from abroad.”
When it comes to the people eventually coming to Israel with green passports, Feldman says Israel must first worry about granting foreigners access in general. 
“We may be ahead of the curve in immunizations, but we are so far behind the curve with” allowing foreign nationals into the country, Feldman said. He added that health ministry officials are questioning whether tests for the coronavirus taken in other countries are reliable.  
As a result, “Israel just simply closes the skies,” he said.
Feldman is not optimistic about the near-term prospects for Israel’s tourism industry. 
“I don’t anticipate more than 50 percent of 2019 [tourism] numbers this year; I see a very tepid recovery the second half of ’21. I do think that by July and August, we will see hotels reaching 50% occupancy but nothing like we had in the summer of 2019,” he said. 
However, in countries like the UAE, which have had more lenient policies towards foreigners during the coronavirus crisis, travel experts are a little more optimistic about tourism prospects with the vaccine.   
The United Arab Emirates is one of the countries that “has started to accept visitors from around the world, with restrictions in place, keeping the country one of the safest places to live, despite opening the country to the world,” Rose Dela Rosa, operations manager at AMR Travel and Tourism in Dubai, told The Media Line. “In no time, the tourism industry in UAE will be among the first countries to recover fully from this pandemic, I believe within the year.”