Israel will start allowing the limited entry of vaccinated tourist groups next month as its own inoculation campaign has sharply brought down COVID-19 infections, an official statement said on Tuesday.
The return of foreigners after Israel had closed its borders at the outset of the pandemic in March 2020 would boost the country’s economy, which contracted 2.5% in 2020, and battered tourism sector. Israel’s jobless rate stands at around 10%.
All foreign visitors will be required to present a negative PCR test before boarding a flight to Israel, and a serological test to prove their vaccination upon arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.
A statement from the health and tourism ministries said “a limited number of groups will start to arrive on May 23” in the initial phase of the plan. No exact figures were given.
At a later stage, group entry will be expanded and individual travellers will also be let in, with Israel’s health situation determining the timeline, the statement said. A detailed outline would be issued in the coming days.
“Israel is the first vaccinated country, and the citizens of Israel are the first to enjoy this result,” said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein. “After opening the economy, it is time to allow tourism in a careful and calculated manner.”