Monday, August 8

Israel reopens to tourism with strict controls after 20 months of pandemic | Society

A group of tourists on Monday on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
A group of tourists on Monday on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.Sebastian Scheiner (AP)

Israel, one of the first countries to close its doors at the beginning of the pandemic, on Monday reopened its main access route – the Tel Aviv airport – to individual tourists, albeit low. strict control measures. After almost 20 months of close closure, non-resident foreigners will be able to re-enter Israeli territory as long as they prove to be fully vaccinated or to have overcome COVID-19 previously, they provide a negative PCR carried out in the previous 72 hours and undergo another screening test upon arrival, for which they will have to isolate themselves while waiting to receive the result. If this is positive, they must remain in quarantine for 10 days, at the expense of a health hotel under the control of the Army.

The Israeli Ministry of Health It will only grant the Green Pass (digital covid passport) –which allows access to hotels, restaurants, museums or leisure or sports centers– to visitors who meet the rigorous conditions. People vaccinated for more than six months who have not received a third booster injection (or the second, in the case of single-dose inoculations), which are only applied to risk groups or people for now, will not be allowed through. of advanced age in several countries, such as Spain. Children under 12 years of age will also be banned, for whom there is still no immunization program in place. Those who violate travel regulations or falsify health tests and certificates run the risk of being deported and being denied entry to the country for between three and five years.

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The complexity of the procedure for individual tourists, which was approved by the Government on Thursday, has caused situations of chaos at airports of origin, where hundreds of passengers were rejected by airlines, according to the daily Haaretz, since the companies had received the information on the travel conditions the night before and had not yet updated their systems. Organized groups of tourists, who move in a capsule separated from the local population, they already had permission from the authorities in recent weeks, within an experimental program to recover the tourism sector. For its members it is not required that the vaccination has been applied less than six months ago.

The Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Naoum, municipal responsible for international relations and tourism, described the implementation of the new rules as “disastrous” in a videoconference with foreign journalists. The municipal representative considers that, amid the prevailing “confusion”, the measure actually involves a “partial reopening” of borders. Israel introduced last summer the booster injection with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only one applied in the country, to combat the wave of infections of the delta variant before it was approved by the US and EU drug agencies. . As of October, he has demanded it to grant the Green Pass to those immunized for more than six months.

Pilgrimages to the Holy Land

The Jewish State broke the visitor record in 2019, with more than 4.5 million travelers in an economic sector that represents 6% of Gross Domestic Product, a percentage that rises to 30% in cities such as Jerusalem. The lifting of the travel ban occurs before the start of the Christmas pilgrimage campaign, one of the most important for tourism in the Holy Land along with Holy Week and Jewish Passover. The president of the Jerusalem Hotel Association, David Tucker, also confirmed in a digital meeting with international correspondents that he had already reopened the establishment he runs, the Ramada hotel, after having remained closed for practically the entire pandemic. 80% of the visitors to the Holy City come from outside the country.

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Israel will accept travelers immunized with all vaccines recognized by the World Health Organization. In addition, it will include from next day 15 those injected with the Russian-made Sputnik antidote, after the recent visit of the Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, to the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. However, tourists injected with Sputnik will also have to undergo a serological test to check if they are protected by antibodies against covid-19 before they can leave isolation. Coronavirus infections are now breaking records in Russia, where a million new cases have been registered during the month of October.

Thailand and Australia also lift restrictions

Thailand has also opened its borders on Monday, according to Reuters, to tourists from 60 countries. The United States plans to lift entry restrictions from the 8th and Australia, one of the countries that most firmly closed its borders in the face of the health crisis, has relaxed its travel restrictions on Monday, for the first time since the beginning. of the pandemic: millions of Australian citizens, who are vaccinated, will be able to travel freely and reunite with their families, without the need to quarantine upon arrival. The measure is currently limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their families, but it is a first step in a plan to reopen the country to tourists and foreign workers.

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