Travelers in pre-approved tour groups who are not up to date with their COVID booster shot will now be allowed into Israel, the Corona Cabinet decided on Sunday, reversing a policy that set a six-month expiry date on vaccines.
The plan, approved by Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov, will take effect Nov. 9 and allow tour groups with travelers that have received at least the minimum dose of a World Health Organization-approved vaccine.
However, they will be subject to continual testing throughout their stay in the Holy Land.
“During the first seven days of their stay, non-protected tourists will be in possession at all times of either a negative PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours, or a negative antigen test taken within the previous 24 hours,” the Tourism Ministry said in a statement.
The groups’ movement will also be restricted, the Cabinet decided, and the group required to remain a "capsule."
While Israel was the first country to approve booster shots for their general population as early as July, most countries have not. Since many countries are still waiting for booster-shot approval, the requirement for tourists to be on Israel's vaccine schedule caused angst and controversy in the travel industry when the nation rolled out its new plan to reopen to tourists on Nov. 1.
This new ruling does not appear to apply to individual tourists who are now allowed to enter Israel for the first time since March 2020, but be within six months of their latest shot.
“A week ago we started out and now we are already moving up a gear, removing restrictions and allowing more tourists to enter Israel. We still have a long way to go to bring back tourism, therefore we must act swiftly but surely, in order to increase the numbers of incoming tourists,” Razvozov said.
“The Israeli economy needs tourism as do, of course, the employees in the tourism industry. Now, after the approval of the outline by the government, it must be approved by the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, and then it will immediately come into effect.”
But one health expert in Israel said the decision "is puzzling and completely detached from reality." Yehuda Adler, chairman of the European Cardiovascular and Myocardial Disease Association, predicts that this will cause an outbreak of a fifth wave of COVID in Israel.
"Politicians have proven yet again that they understand nothing," he said. "We see what is going on in Europe. The lack of a booster shot in Western Europe has led to severe outbreaks of infections. The UK and other countries are seeing cases rising."
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS