Israel to relaunch tourism plan as cases dip before holidays

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Sep 06 2021 06:44 AM

Photo by Sander Crombach on Unsplash
Photo by Sander Crombach on Unsplash

JERUSALEM - Israel said Sunday it would relaunch a pilot program granting entry to tourist groups from select countries, as the daily coronavirus caseload dipped ahead of the Jewish High Holidays. 

A tourism ministry statement said the program applying to groups of 5 to 30 tourists would restart on September 19.

But visitors from countries labelled "red" by Israel based on the rate of viral transmission will still barred. 

The program, launched in May, was halted on August 11 "due to new regulations and restrictions from the health ministry in line with the rising morbidity rates at the time," a tourism ministry spokeswoman told AFP.

The first part of the pilot program saw over 2,000 tourists enter the country.

The ministry said that "not one corona case was identified among the groups."

Incoming tourists in the renewed scheme must be fully vaccinated with a recent negative Covid test and undergo antibody testing upon arrival in order to skip quarantine, the ministry said. 

September 19 is a day before the beginning of Sukkot, the weeklong Feast of Tabernacles, which normally draws many Jewish tourists to Israel.

The High Holiday seasons begins at sundown on Monday, with the start of Jewish New Year. 

Israel was in December among the first countries to launch a national vaccination campaign that brought infections down to a trickle and allowed the lifting in June of nearly all pandemic restrictions.

The emergency of the Delta variant sent infections back up to an average of around 10,000 new cases daily over the last week.

But less than 5,000 new cases were recorded on Saturday and serious cases have ticked down, raising hope that the latest surge was beginning to decline.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has credited the rollout of the third jab of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, a so-called booster shot, with helping stem the latest wave. 

Israel's plans to allow the entry of individual tourists beginning July 1 were put off due to the current infection surge.

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© Agence France-Presse

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