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Arrivals to Israel from 20 countries no longer need to quarantine

Order goes into effect immediately, applies retroactively to Israelis who recently returned from the designated states

The departure hall at the Ben Gurion International Airport on August 16, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
The departure hall at the Ben Gurion International Airport on August 16, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Sunday signed off on an order exempting Israelis returning from 20 countries with low COVID-19 rates from a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

The so-called “green” countries are: Canada, Austria, Estonia, Italy, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, Georgia, Germany, Denmark, Hong Kong, Hungary, Jordan, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Slovenia, Finland, Cyprus and Croatia.

The order, approved by ministry Director-General Chezy Levy, went into effect Sunday. It also applies retroactively to Israeli travelers who returned from these countries and are currently in quarantine, the Health Ministry said.

The Health Ministry did not publicize how it made the decision of which countries to classify as “green.”

Passengers seen at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv on August 13, 2020. (Flash90)

Additionally, Greece, Croatia and Bulgaria will begin allowing Israelis to enter their territories without automatic isolation, but with some other restrictions.

Israelis will need to present a negative coronavirus test from within the previous 72 hours upon arrival in Bulgaria and within 48 hours for Croatia. Neither country will require a test upon landing, nor any isolation.

Greece has stricter rules, with just 600 Israeli tourists allowed to visit per week, and only to four locations: Athens, Crete, Thessaloniki, and Corfu.

People gather in Limanakia Vouliagenis beach in southern Athens, on August 6, 2020 (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

The Kan public broadcaster reported that Israeli tourists will be required to take a coronavirus test between arriving in Greece and their transfer to one of the four destinations. They will reportedly stay in quarantine until they receive the test results — a process that could theoretically take up to 48 hours. It was not clarified who would pay for the initial quarantine or how the 600 slots would be allocated.

The first flight from Israel to Bulgaria departed Sunday morning, and the first flight to Greece is scheduled for Monday. The initial flights will be operated by foreign carriers, but Israir will begin flying those routes from Tuesday, Channel 12 news reported.

Israelis will be required to complete a health declaration upon leaving and entering the Jewish state.

The Kan public broadcaster reported that the list of countries from which Israel will not require quarantine will generally be reassessed on a fortnightly basis; however, infection data will also be examined at the end of the first week.

Air travel has been at a trickle for months, with Israel more or less closed to foreign nationals since March, and nearly all countries barring Israelis from visiting.

Israel has one of the highest morbidity rates in the world per capita and many countries currently ban Israeli visitors. There have been over 92,000 infections in the country, and 679 deaths.

Only countries that have more lax entry requirements, such as Brazil, the US, Mexico, Kenya and others allow in Israelis, though in some cases, they must still present negative COVID-19 tests or quarantine upon entry.

Earlier this month, Israel decided to allow thousands of foreign students into the country, despite coronavirus travel restrictions. According to a Health Ministry statement, 2,000 university students and 12,000 yeshiva students will be permitted to enter Israel for their respective programs. Another 5,000 participants in Masa programs, 500 high school exchange students on the Naale program, and 1,500 people at private institutions will also be allowed into the country.

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