Israelis looking to head overseas during the summer holidays will have a number of island destinations to choose from, as several nations popular with Israeli travelers announced Wednesday they were starting to allow in tourists after months of coronavirus shutdowns.
Greece and Cyprus both announced they will begin opening their airports to some foreigners, while the Seychelles indicated they would set aside an island only for Israelis so they would not have to risk mingling with people from other countries, Channel 13 reported.
Greece’s long-awaited tourist season will begin on June 15 with the opening of seasonal hotels and the arrival of the first foreign visitors, while international flights will begin heading directly for holiday destinations gradually as of July 1, the government said Wednesday.
Speaking in a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said visitors would be subject to sample coronavirus testing and “our general health protocols will be adhered to, without them, however, overshadowing our bright sun or the natural beauties of Greece.”
Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said a list of countries from which visitors will be able to arrive in Greece will be announced before the end of May. The selection will be based on “epidemiological criteria” as determined by Greece’s committee of experts dealing with the pandemic.
Balkan and Baltic countries, Germany and regional countries such as Israel and Cyprus are expected to be in the first wave of those whose citizens will be allowed to enter Greece, he said.
Visitors from those countries will be able to fly into Greece initially only through Athens’ international airport as of June 15, Theoharis said. Direct international flights to the rest of the country’s airports will resume July 1.
Nations with high infection rates will not be allowed in.
Those arriving will not be subject to mandatory quarantine or blanket testing of all arrivals, but Greek authorities will have the right to carry out sample testing, he said.
Theoharis outlined an operational plan being set in place to tackle any potential outbreaks at tourist destinations, including a designated doctor for each hotel, special quarantine areas and testing facilities on islands.
Meanwhile, Cyprus will reopen its airports on June 9, Deputy Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios said on Wednesday, according to the Reuters news agency.
“We expect a full containment of the virus by the end of this week which means that on June 9 we will open our airports again for business as usual and that’s very very important,” Perdios said during an online Economist conference on tourism.
The news comes a day after Israeli officials discussed removing self-isolation requirements for travelers from five countries.
The countries are Greece, Cyprus, the Seychelles, Georgia and Montenegro.
The initiative was discussed at a meeting Tuesday attended by officials from the Health Ministry, Tourism Ministry and Airports Authority, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
The plan, which has not yet received final approval, would have a pilot stage over the summer during which officials would carefully track the effects of an open-border policy from the five nations, all of which have a very low rate of infection for the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Talks are also underway with Austria about adding it to the list.
Israel still has a ban on non-citizens entering Israel and requires a 14-day self-isolation for Israelis arriving from abroad.
Israel took part in a meeting Monday between eight low-infection countries on reopening borders and jumpstarting tourism as the virus recedes. The other countries were Austria, Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, New Zealand and Singapore.
Officials said the danger of reinfection among the nations that participated in the meeting was very low, and lowering barriers to travel would help bring back trade and tourism.
Also Tuesday, Delta Airlines announced on its website it would resume flights between New York and Israel at the start of next month, with face masks mandatory for staff and travelers.
The flights will be “less than daily,” Delta said.
The airline’s first flight to Israel since mid-March will depart from New York’s JFK international Airport on June 3, with a return scheduled for June 6. The flights will operate on Saturday nights, Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays.
Along with the mask requirement, the announcement said that only 50 to 60 percent of the seats will be filled to ensure proper spacing during flights.
United Airlines has been flying to Israel from Newark Liberty and San Francisco airports throughout the coronavirus crisis.