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Israel approves plan to let in vaccinated tourists starting November 1

CM 21/10/2021

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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and the Health and Tourism ministries approved a plan on Thursday to allow vaccinated and recovered tourists into the country beginning November 1, despite a revelation that at least a handful of cases of the new AY4.2 coronavirus variant have entered Israel in the last few days.
According to the plan, which still must be ratified by the full government, tourists who have been vaccinated with the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccines within the last six months will be able to enter the country.
The approved vaccines are only those that are recognized by the World Health Organization. As such, Russia’s Sputnik V is not included.
Specifically, individuals who took the Pfizer vaccine are eligible to enter if at least seven days have passed since receiving the second dose and no more than 180 days.
For those who took the other vaccines, 14 days need to have passed and no more than 180.

Jerusalem resident Klara Brieff is seen getting the third COVID-19 vaccine at a Meuhedet clinic, on August 1, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)Jerusalem resident Klara Brieff is seen getting the third COVID-19 vaccine at a Meuhedet clinic, on August 1, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Also, anyone who received a booster shot of these vaccines within the last six months will also be able to come to Israel.
Furthermore, recovered individuals who can show that they tested positive at least 11 days prior to entering Israel and no more than 180 days ago are also eligible to enter. If more than six months have passed and these individuals receive a booster, they can also enter the country.
All travelers will be required to take a PCR test within 72 hours of boarding the plane and upon arrival. They will also be required to stay in isolation until the results of the test come back negative or 24 hours have passed.
However, these tourists will not be required to take a serological test to show that they have been vaccinated. Until now, any individual who was vaccinated abroad and managed to enter the country had to take one of these blood tests.
To gain entry, travelers will have to fill out a Health Ministry declaration form 48 hours before their flight. Part of the form will include entering one’s flight information, the location in which the individual will isolate for up to 24 hours and their vaccination or recovery certificate. Recovered people will also need to submit a copy of their PCR positive test result. Files will need to be under 1megabyte.
Travelers should receive a response within minutes, especially if they are part of the European Union’s digital COVID certificate program. A response may be slightly delayed for people who do  not have certificates that can be digitally validated in Israel.
This validation email needs to be shown at the airport.
Anyone who qualifies to enter the country will also receive a Green Pass and be able to enter restaurants, cafes and other places of leisure where this pass is required during the duration of their stay.
When this new program rolls out, the permit system for entering Israel will be obliterated. A spokesperson for the Health Ministry said that first-degree relatives of people living in Israel should still be able to enter the country, even if they do not qualify, but only for humanitarian reasons, such as funerals and weddings – though this is not for certain.
In most countries, booster shots are not widely available for people under the age of 65 who are not at high-risk of catching coronavirus or developing serious disease.
Yad L’Olim, the organization that has been working to help get relatives of new immigrants into Israel over the past several months, said they will lobby for first-degree relatives who cannot get a booster to be able to enter Israel with strict quarantine rules.
Children under the age of 12, who are currently not eligible to be vaccinated, will not be able to enter Israel unless they have recovered from the virus within the last six months.
The US Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing data provided by Pfizer on a vaccination protocol for kids ages five-11. The regulatory organization is supposed to make a decision about giving young children the vaccine by the beginning of next month.
Earlier this week, the White House put out its own outline for how youth vaccination would work in the United States.
Furthermore, the group tourism outline will be expanded, also on November 1.
These are groups that receive approval to enter Israel from the Tourism Ministry. All travelers must be vaccinated by a vaccine that is approved by the World Health Organization.
The group will function in Israel like a “capsule,” meaning that group members are only in contact with the people in their group. These groups will not have free time outside of the group, and their movement will be restricted in areas where there is an increased risk of infection.
Up to 2,000 travelers approved by the Tourism Ministry can enter the country every day. None of the members of the groups could have been in a “red” country with high infection within 14 days of coming to Israel.
Up until now, Israel has not officially recognized any foreign-issued documentation for entry and has been requiring the limited number of travelers who are allowed into the country to undergo a serological test to prove the presence of antibodies in the blood.
However, last month, Israel reached a deal to join the European Union’s digital COVID certificate program, ensuring mutual recognition of green passes with around 40 other countries.
In general, Israeli borders have been closed to foreign nationals for a year and a half, since the beginning of the pandemic, with very limited exceptions. Since May, vaccinated or recovered first-degree relatives of Israelis have been allowed in, but only providing that they obtain approval from the Population Authority at the Interior Ministry or from the Foreign Ministry.
The procedure to apply and receive such approvals has been burdensome and unreliable – with many people forced to cancel or reschedule their trips due to the delay by the Israeli authorities in responding to their applications.
The Prime Minister’s Office has already said in its announcement that it will be monitoring the AY4.2 variant and could update the plan if necessary.
On Thursday, the Health Ministry announced that an additional five cases of the variant had been discovered in Israel, two days after the first AY4.2 carrier was identified in an 11-year-old boy returning from Moldova.
Following the discovery, the ministry’s testing laboratory examined additional potential cases previously classified as the Delta variant and discovered that the five individuals were infected with AY4.2, which is considered a subvariant of Delta and appears to be some 10%-15% more contagious.
Also on Thursday, two coronavirus outbreaks were identified in two elementary schools in Jerusalem and in the Samaria settlement Shaarei Tikva, The Jerusalem Post confirmed, as over 50% of new cases in the previous 24 hours were recorded among children aged 0-11, Health Ministry data showed.
Some 42 students and staff have been found positive at the Zalman Aren schools in Jerusalem and 39 in Shaarei Tikva.
Both schools operate under the new Green Class outline, according to which only identified virus carriers have to quarantine, while those who are exposed can continue to attend learning in person provided that they get a negative PCR test after they came in contact with someone infected and undergo a rapid test every day for seven days, followed by a second PCR test at the end of the period. Following the outbreak however, the school in Jerusalem has been closed.
The Green Class outline was strongly supported by Bennett and the Education Ministry to reduce the number of children and parents forced to isolate. It started to be implemented in areas with low morbidity (or green according to the Traffic Light Program) on October 10, a week before the pilot launched by the Health Ministry in a limited number of schools to monitor its potential effects was scheduled to end.
Starting from Sunday, the framework will be applied also in preschools and in cities classified as yellow.
While morbidity in Israel has been constantly dropping for weeks, as of Thursday, almost 9,000 out of 15,000 active cases in the country were schoolchildren.
Some 1,025 new virus carriers were identified on Wednesday, over 50 of whom were 11 or younger – the cohort not eligible yet for a vaccine.
While a few weeks earlier the new cases often surpassed 5,000 a day, in the past 10 days they have remained below 2,000 and are steadily decreasing.
The number of serious patients also continued to drop – standing at 330 on Thursday, less than half than the month before.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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