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Israel relieving pandemic travel regulations and returning to the old normal

The pandemic that swept the globe shuttered borders for months on end. Now that we’re reaching the second year of having to deal with the pandemic, things are easing up a bit with regulations to manage the spread of the virus along with doling out vaccinations and ensuring that nations around the world are able to contain any outbreaks. Hospitals are no longer overrun and the medical field has gotten things under control, which has prompted governments to consider reopening their borders

While travel is still allowed under special circumstances, tourism has lulled dramatically and due to an economy that has suffered greatly during the pandemic, borders and businesses are struggling to stay on top of the game through innovative means, and for others, it simply means resuming business as usual.

Since 21 March 2022, Israel is abolishing all Covid-19 travel restrictions and rules. Initially, the country was relatively strict on travelers entering the country and required several supporting documents before allowing them into the country, but are now accepting tourists openly, much like it used to be prior to the pandemic. 

Travelers used to be required to show a negative PCR test result which is taken 24 hours before departure and take another PCR on arrival at Israeli airports. Travelers will also have to show proof of vaccination or recovery, as well as self-isolate until their PCR results are released which is normally around 12 hours. 

It is great news for those who are planning to travel to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv as there are no more travel restrictions to hamper travel plans. For more than two years, the world has been anticipating the opportunity to travel again but when borders opened, there were so many new restrictions in place that it felt like travel was never going to be the same again. However, as the Israeli government has now proven, those limitations aren’t here to stay. 

According to Sharon Ehrlich Bershadsky, the director of the Israel Government Tourist Office in London, “With Israel joining many other countries in dropping all Covid restrictions, I am hopeful the travel industry has now reached a crucial milestone in this post-pandemic world.”

Prior to this, Israel had already removed certain travel restrictions for its citizens. Israelis returning to the country did not need to undergo pre-departure Covid-19 screening tests but tourists were exempted from this and still had to show proof that they aren’t infected with the virus before entering the country. 

According to the Ministry of Tourism, Israel was very much affected by the border closures because their economy is largely fuelled by tourism. Before the pandemic, 4.55 million tourists visited Israel in 2019. But when the Covid-19 cases rose to alarming levels, the country was forced to close its borders and tourists dwindled to zero. 

Today, the pandemic has come under reasonable control, or as the Ministry of Health puts it, the cases have “dropped to a number low enough where it is safe enough to relax restrictions further”. Israeli cases have gone from 250,000 daily cases in January to only a tenth of the number, with 2,400 cases reported on the 17th of May. 

Aside from no longer needing to comply with these lengthy inconveniences, Israeli authorities have also announced that masks are no longer required anywhere in Israel except for hospitals, care homes, and airplanes. The change came about in April during a government review. But medical experts do encourage that masks are kept on especially in crowded places just to avoid transmission. 

“It’s no longer a requirement, but everyone should feel free to keep their masks on,” explains one expert, “Masks can protect us from a multitude of viruses and not just Covid-19. Similarly, hand washing and hygiene has maintained its importance throughout history for it is a simple way of keeping ourselves and others free from sickness.”

At present, the requirements for entering Israel have gone back to pre-pandemic norms. Visitors have to fill out a form 48 hours prior to entering, stating their intentions on an entry statement form. However, it should be noted that while unvaccinated tourists can now enter Israel, it remains a risky venture and you will need to isolate yourself if you become a close contact while in Israel. Also, tourists are required to purchase health insurance that covers the costs of medical treatment for Covid-19. 

Now that the way is clear for tourists to enter Israel without worrying about the latest standard operating procedures and travel restrictions, authorities expect a bigger influx of travelers and predict numbers to exceed pre-pandemic numbers. But they are also prepared for Tel Aviv to London flight routes to become more popular as their own nationals take this as a sign to resume their travel plans for 2022 and beyond. 

About the Author
Justin Doebe is the President of Nevelis Media. Justin 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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