Ban on foreigners extended until December 29

France, Spain, UAE added to no-fly list, with US reportedly being considered as well

Government introduces compensation package for tourism sector further decimated by Omicron variant restrictions, including offers of up to $9,500 for those who shift industries

Arriving travelers at Ben Gurion Airport, November 28, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Arriving travelers at Ben Gurion Airport, November 28, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Health Ministry on Wednesday added seven countries, including France, Spain and the UAE, to its “red” no-fly list, while also reportedly considering expanding it further to include the United States.

Ireland, Norway, Finland and Sweden were the other four countries added to the list of countries to which Israelis will be barred from flying starting Sunday evening, as the government seeks to clamp down on the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Foreigners from those countries may not enter Israel, though current restrictions bar virtually all foreigners from entering the country anyway. Those who do return from red countries are forced to enter quarantine in state-run hotels until their first COVID test comes back negative, after which they can leave, but must remain in home quarantine for seven days, even if they are fully vaccinated.

The list of red countries already includes the UK, Denmark and most of Africa.

The cabinet will convene on Thursday to ratify the Health Ministry’s decision.

Channel 12 news reported on Wednesday evening that health officials are also considering adding the US, Portugal, Turkey, Germany, Hungary, Morocco and Canada to the list of red countries in the coming days.

The report said Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wants to take an aggressive approach to the no-fly list, adding locations before major outbreaks even begin there.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on December 12, 2021. (Emil Salman/POOL)

The cabinet also voted to extend the current travel restrictions, including the ban on foreigners entering the country and a requirement for all Israelis to quarantine for three days upon entry. The limitations will now last until December 29 at least.

Currently, the only exceptions to the ban on foreigners are for first-degree family members of those getting married, having a bar or bat mitzvah, or giving birth to apply. These can apply for special entry permits — which are still sometimes denied.

At the same time a report Wednesday claimed that the government has decided to allow the resumption of Taglit-Birthright and other Jewish heritage trips next week.

Separately on Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s Office, Tourism Ministry, Finance Ministry and Economy Ministry announced a joint proposal to compensate Israel’s beleaguered tourism sector, which has been further decimated by restrictions implemented amid the rise of the Omicron variant. These led to the shuttering of Israel’s borders to foreign tourists less than a month after they were finally reopened.

The compensation package includes up to NIS 30,000 ($9,557) toward training and scholarships for tourism industry employees who opt to switch to another vocation, and a monthly stipend of NIS 10,000 ($3,186) to cover four months of training courses for those in the tourism industry seeking to change career paths.

Workers from the tourism sector, calling for financial support from the Israeli government, protest outside Ben Gurion International Airport, on December 13, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The aid will apply to tour guides, travel agents and others who have been negatively impacted by the ban on foreign entry into Israel.

Financial aid will also be granted to hotels whose incomes have dropped by more than 40% due to the new restrictions. The ministers also say they will fund 25,000 free tours for locals around Israel in order to provide NIS 25 million ($8 million) to local tour guides.

Those in the tourism industry looking for immediate employment will be offered a monthly salary of NIS 11,000 ($3,500) to work as COVID restriction enforcers at schools or as contact tracers.

Some NIS 60 million ($19 million) will be allocated to further reimburse the local tourism industry for marketing activities and personnel retention.

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