Travel Bans To Be Dropped By Israel

( Last week, Israel’s Health Ministry recommended that the travel restrictions into Israel from the United States and several other countries should be lifted.

On January 6, the ministry recommended that all countries on Israel’s “red” no-travel list be removed. In addition to the US and the UK, this “red” list includes the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mexico, Portugal, France, Canada, Hungary, Spain, Nigeria, South Africa, Switzerland, and Turkey.

The decision applies to Israeli citizens or residents, as well as foreign travelers who have been either vaccinated for or recovered from COVID-19.

The Health Ministry also recommended testing requirements for vaccinated and recovering inbound travelers be relaxed as well.

These recommendations are an acknowledgment that the Omicron variant, while more infectious, is not causing more severe illness and death, especially among vaccinated people.

More importantly, the spread of Omicron in Israel makes the travel bans moot. According to the ministry’s director-general, Professor Nachman Ash, since local Omicron infections are widespread, the purpose of the travel bans, namely preventing the spread of Omicron, are futile.

Cases have surged in Israel and hospitalizations have increased, however, Ash noted, the number of critically-ill patients has remained stable.

Vaccinated and recovering travelers will also be allowed to leave quarantine after receiving a negative COVID test result or after 24 hours. Unvaccinated people will leave quarantine after receiving two negative tests and after a week of isolation.

The Health Ministry also relaxed requirements for schools, offering a new plan that prioritized in-person teaching.

Rather than quarantining an entire class or school when a student or teacher tests positive, the new plan will only require isolation for the individual who is diagnosed with COVID-19. Vaccinated individuals or those recovering from the virus will undergo an antigen test and remain in isolation if they are positive. Students who are not vaccinated or recovering from COVID will remain in quarantine even if they test negative.

Mask-wearing in schools, however, will remain compulsory and visitors to schools must show a “Green Pass” to enter.