Greece will accept Israel’s "green passport" and welcome vaccinated Israeli tourists to the country without requiring a negative COVID-19 test or quarantine upon arrival, Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced.
The Greek Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis reportedly informed the Israeli Ambassador Yossi Amrani in Athens that Greece will welcome up to 10,000 Israeli tourists per week beginning on April 1. The weekly cap will be in place until the official tourist season in Greece kicks off on May 14.
The new Greek policy reflects the close diplomatic ties that have been forged in recent years between Jerusalem and Athens. Greece, which has also developed its own "green pass," is vocally urging other more skeptical European Union member states to adopt a green passport policy. Cyprus is another Mediterranean nation, which recently pledged to welcome vaccinated Israeli tourists.
Meanwhile, Seychelles – a tiny island nation outside the eastern African coast – announced that fully vaccinated Israelis would be able to visit the country. The airline company Air Seychelles was scheduled to resume direct multiple weekly flights between Tel Aviv and Mahé in the Seychelles on March 23. Only Israelis who are two weeks after their second jab of the COVID shot will be allowed to travel to the Seychelles. The tiny African country is an attractive holiday destination for Europeans, but also for Israelis. During the pandemic, the Seychelles have become even more popular due to the extremely low prevalence of COVID-19 cases in the island nation.
There was no mention as to whether children under 16 would be allowed to travel to these destinations. The Pfizer shot, which is the one available in Israel, has emergency-use approval only for ages 16 and up and has not yet been approved by the FDA.
During a spike in coronavirus cases worldwide in December last year, Israel designated all countries, including the Seychelles, as “red” despite hardly any COVID-19 cases there. This was likely a political decision made by Jerusalem in order not to single out its new peace partner, the United Arab Emirates, as “red.” At the time, the number of coronavirus cases in Israel spread like wildfire after tens of thousands of Israelis, who visited Dubai, returned home to Israel. Because of strict Israeli travel restrictions, air travel between Israel and the Seychelles ended for two full months.
The Seychelles is overwhelmingly a Christian nation with a population of roughly 100,000 people and a GDP per capita of around $16,000, similar to Poland’s, making the tiny island nation among the wealthiest African countries. With beautiful and largely unspoiled beaches and lush nature, it is hardly surprising that tourism is a critical source of income in the Seychelles.
However, that required a strong response to the coronavirus. Next to Israel, Seychelles has emerged as one of the most successful vaccination nations in the world. In February, Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan said that around 70% of the local population would be vaccinated by mid-March. Today, it increasingly appears that the Seychelles is successfully reaching the point of herd immunity. As of March, the African nation is reportedly second after Israel in the world in proportion of vaccinated among its population.
Air Seychelles CCO Charles Johnson welcomed the resumption of flights between the two countries.
“After a two-month absence from the Tel Aviv-Seychelles route, we are thrilled to be returning to our commercial flights," Johnson said.
Johnson presented the Seychelles as a tourist paradise that welcomes Israelis while keeping the door closed to the corona virus.
"Thanks to the geographic isolation of the country, our paradise destination is safe for tourists who want to get away from the stress and enjoy a relaxing beach holiday. Seychelles has taken enormous steps to keep its citizens and visitors safe during this pandemic. We look forward to welcoming our Israeli guests back to our stunning islands," said a hopeful Johnson.
While there have been speculations that vaccinated tourists would be allowed to enter Israel as early as April, there is currently no final decision on when tourists will be welcomed back to Israel.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.