Israel partially reverses ban on admitting foreign travelers
Israel announced on Monday that it will partially reverse a travel ban enacted in November to curb the spread of the omicron variant.
Beginning Jan. 9, Israel will allow entry to foreigners with presumed COVID-19 immunity from countries deemed medium risk, according to Reuters.
Specifically, travelers from 199 “orange” countries will be permitted in Israel if they can provide proof that they have either been vaccinated or recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection.
“I closed the skies five weeks ago when everything was good,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday, according to Reuters.
“And, over the coming week, it would be reasonable for us to reopen anew,” he added.
Countries in the “orange” risk zone include Australia, Italy and Ireland. The Health Ministry also recommended that South Africa, France, Canada and 13 other countries currently deemed “red,” or high COVID-19 risk, be changed to the “orange” risk level. The U.S., along with the U.K. and Mexico, will remain on the “red” list for now.
As Israel grapples with long COVID-19 test lines amid the uptick in infections, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said the country would change its criteria for mandatory tests and focus on testing those at higher risk, Reuters noted.
Horowitz said more Israelis “will be required to exercise personal responsibility and perform tests at home.”
But despite the change in restrictions, Bennett predicted that new cases could increase tenfold in the coming days, Reuters added.
Also on Sunday, Bennett announced that Israel would offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine shot to health care workers and individuals 60 years old and older in an effort to offer additional protection against the omicron variant.