EU moves to reimpose COVID travel restrictions on Israel, US

Along with 3 other countries, Israel and US no longer considered ‘epidemiologically safe,’ by Brussels; European member states not required to follow bloc’s guidelines

Travelers seen in the departure hall at the Ben Gurion International Airport, on July 19, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Travelers seen in the departure hall at the Ben Gurion International Airport, on July 19, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israel, the US, and three other countries were officially removed from a list of nations deemed “epidemiologically safe” by the European Union on Monday, due to rising COVID-19 cases.

The move means that the European Council is now advising EU member states to reimpose restrictions on travelers from the five countries. Although the recommendation is non-binding, most EU members have followed Brussels’ travel advice during the crisis so far.

Kosovo, Montenegro, and North Macedonia are the others scrubbed from the list.

The EU has no unified COVID-19 tourism policy and national EU governments have the authority to decide whether they keep their borders open to foreign tourists. Possible restrictions could include quarantines, further testing requirements upon arrival, or even a total ban on all nonessential travel.

Overall, nonessential travel into the bloc from outside the 27-member EU and eight associated countries — Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican — has been restricted.

Some countries and territories have been exempted from this list, but their number has been shrinking in recent months, and now includes only 17 members, plus China, if Beijing reciprocates.

Travelers at Ben Gurion International Airport, on June 30, 2021, heading for COVID-19 tests. (Nati Shohat/ FLASH90)

“This list will continue to be reviewed regularly and, as the case may be, updated,” a Monday statement from the European Council said.

On Sunday, 6,621 people in Israel tested positive for COVID-19, according to Health Ministry statistics. As of Monday, there were 78,700 active COVID cases in Israel, with 1,138 hospitalized, 736 in serious condition, and 163 of them on ventilators. The death toll since the start of the pandemic stood at 7,030.

Last Tuesday saw the highest one-day figure so far during the fourth wave, with over 10,000 infections — close to the record for a one-day new case total set in January.

On Sunday, the Health Ministry announced that, effective Friday, Israelis returning from low- and moderate-risk countries will not have to self-isolate for a week upon landing, if they received a booster or their second vaccine dose within the past half a year.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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