Craig Lebrau
Craig Lebrau

Israel at the front of the pack for border reopenings

The times have changed, from a borderless world to one filled with lockdowns. But the world is about to change again. As the cases in Israel have taken a dip, the Tourism Ministry has announced the pilot program recently in order to restore some semblance of order back to their travel industry and to revive the economy which has always been one of the main sources of income for the country. While the travel industry may never revert to what it used to be, researchers and investors are optimistic. Now, before you renew your fit to fly certificate, it might be wise to learn what has changed in this new world of travel and what has remained the same.

This program actually launched back in May and over 2,000 tourists were able to enter the country until it was halted on the 11th of August, in line with the emergency of the Delta variant which increased daily cases up to 10,000 new daily cases.

According to a spokeswoman from the Tourism Ministry, the reason behind putting the program on hold was “due to new regulations and restrictions from the Health Ministry in line with the rising morbidity rates at the time,” despite the fact that “not one coronavirus case was identified among the groups.” However, in times of crisis, it is always better to err on the side of caution.

To continue the trend of Covid-free tourists, the new requirements that follow with the revival of the tourism industry is that tourists will need to be fully vaccinated and meeting the required window of time for the vaccine to come into effect – which can be up to three months for some vaccinations, but as little as two weeks for others – and also, the tourists will have to participate in Covid screening test before and after arrival, or be put into mandatory quarantine.

With the decline of serious cases, and now that daily cases have reduced by 50%, the ministry has deemed it safe again for tourists to enter. However, individual tourists are still disallowed from entering the country, and only groups above five are allowed in. There are exceptions to this rule, and individual tourists are allowed to enter if they are visiting a first-degree relative or have special circumstances that the ministry has approved.

According to reports, the prime minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett, has credited the rollout of a booster shot with curbing the latest wave of the virus outbreak and variant so successfully. This program is available to any Israeli citizen over the age of 16. Third injection or booster shot applicants have to wait a minimum of five months before they are eligible, but there is certain data showing that the immunity granted by vaccination fades over time, making booster shots a semi-permanent fixture in society if we want to ensure that the virus is to be managed. 

At the end of the day, we can’t expect to eliminate Covid entirely, but to an infectious disease specialist and frontliner at Sheba Medical Center, Professor Eyal Leshem, the idea is to reach an “equilibrium.” He goes on to explain that, “Covid circulates globally, and it also circulates in wildlife, so it will be very challenging if ever to eradicate,” he said. “Therefore, most of the population will be infected at some point. Hopefully, this will be after they are protected with vaccines and therefore infection will be mild.”

“Many infectious diseases initially emerged in a pandemic form and then reached equilibrium. Of course, the most crucial question is how long is it going to take for us to live normally with Covid? Is this a matter of several years or longer? The vaccines accelerate this process because they allow more people to become naturally infected without developing severe disease,” Leshem said.

The nation set a precedent for the world when their vaccination program rolled out rapidly and much more quickly than any other country in the world, with the aid of infographics and successful public health campaigns. In June, the country was already seeing a drastic drop in positive cases and the general outlook was looking up, until the Delta variant hit its shores and shot the numbers of infected patients through the roof. 

Today, they’ve fallen behind other countries which were slower in their implementation of the Covid-19 vaccination, at only 63% completion. This plateau is due to aversion to vaccinating, and according to the NPR, more than a million eligible candidates between the age of 12 to 20 have not taken their first vaccination. 

Without any protection from the virus, it will continue to weigh down on hospitals and various economies as shops and businesses are not allowed to operate. But in the meantime, we will be able to return to some small semblance of normalcy if we continue to stay safe, and accept the vaccination in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

About the Author
Craig Lebrau is the Director of Cato Media. A former programmer, Craig is interested in Israel's startup ecosystem and aims to share his insights learnt from expanding to and managing business in Israel.
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