Israel Reopens Borders

For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel opened its borders to individual tourists today, as long as they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or recovered from it in the past six months.

Israel’s government issued the following statement:

“The Israel Ministry of Tourism is pleased to welcome the long-awaited return of vaccinated individual tourists from November 1, 2021. Throughout the global Corona pandemic, interest in visiting Israel has remained high and Israel’s Ministry of Tourism has worked hard to find creative solutions to facilitate the safe return of tourists. A pilot program allowing groups to enter Israel has been successful, with several thousand tourists, primarily from the USA and Europe, visiting Israel’s religious, historical, cultural and natural sites within a safe and tourist-friendly environment. Once again, tourists from around the world can make their reservations and enjoy the unique, varied and safe tourism products that Israel has to offer.”

The idea is that individual travellers who meet the criteria are now able to arrive in Israel without any special permission.

Passengers leaving Ben Gurion airportPassengers leaving Ben Gurion airport (photo: Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

However, it seems that some enthusiasts were too quick off the mark, as hundreds were delayed at airports on Sunday night, unable to board flights until airlines were told officially that they can now let people through based on proof of vaccination.

The new policy restricts permission to tourists from countries that are not designated as “red” due to high infection rates. But on Monday there were no countries in that category.

The permission requires people to have received their most recent vaccination during the 180 days before their departure from Israel; and it is only vaccines recognized by the World Health Organization that will be accepted, plus Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine (for which there is the extra requirement of a serological test).

Foreign travellers vaccinated with the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, or China’s Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccines, must be 14 full days on from their second or third vaccination. Those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be the same interval on from their first or second vaccination.

Israel hopes that this reopening will herald the revival of its tourist industry, which has suffered a huge setback during the pandemic.