Health Ministry issues virus travel warning for Russia, Seychelles, Argentina

Officials say if situation in 3 countries doesn’t improve they’ll be added to ‘red list’ requiring special permission for travel from Israel and quarantine even for the vaccinated

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Two police officers patrol an almost empty Red Square, with St. Basil's Cathedral, center, and Spasskaya Tower in Moscow, Russia, April 20, 2020 (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Two police officers patrol an almost empty Red Square, with St. Basil's Cathedral, center, and Spasskaya Tower in Moscow, Russia, April 20, 2020 (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

The Health Ministry on Sunday issued a serious travel warning for the Seychelles, Argentina and Russia due to outbreaks of the coronavirus in those countries.

Unless there is a significant improvement in the situation, the three countries will be added to a list of so-called “red countries” considered to have the highest danger of virus infection.

Travel to red countries from Israel is only possible with the permission of a special government committee. Return from such locations requires two weeks of quarantine even for those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The warning came following a situation assessment last Thursday, the ministry said.

Cemetery workers transport the remains of a COVID-19 victim for burial in Buenos Aires, Argentina,, May 22, 2021. (Mario De Fina/AP)

It also warned against travel to African countries and Central and South America, as well to Greece, Egypt, Germany, Serbia, Poland, Croatia and Romania.

A full list of guidelines for travel to countries around the world can be found on the Health Ministry website (Hebrew link). So far, only Ukraine, Ethiopia, Brazil, India, South Africa, Mexico and Turkey are considered red countries.

Russia has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic with the sixth-highest number of cases in the world.

Moscow imposed a strict lockdown when the pandemic first swept across the country last spring but most measures were lifted within several months, with authorities opting to protect the struggling economy and pinning their hopes on curbing the outbreak with vaccines.

Although a mass vaccination campaign started in early December, ahead of most countries, Russia has struggled to inoculate its citizens.

Footprints are seen in the sand on a beach on Mahe island, Seychelles, March 1, 2019. (David Keyton/AP)

The Seychelles two weeks ago was the country that saw the highest by far per capita recorded number of cases — 2,858 per 100,000 inhabitants. The figures came despite 61 percent of the population being fully vaccinated.

The majority of citizens received China’s Sinopharm vaccine, with others receiving the AstraZeneca shot, CNBC reported. The outlet said the World Health Organization was examining the data due to the high numbers of vaccinated people who tested positive.

Meanwhile, Argentina has been hit with a wave of infections that saw daily new cases rise from around 5,000 in March to 35,000 last week, the Guardian newspaper reported.

Daily deaths reached a record 744 last Tuesday and on Wednesday a record 40,000 new cases were identified, the third-highest daily caseload in the world after India and Brazil. With over 73,600 deaths, Argentina’s toll is the fourth highest globally.

Meanwhile, a speedy mass inoculation program and lockdown measures greatly reduced Israel’s daily caseload and infection rates.

There were just 11 cases identified on Saturday according to Health Ministry figures released Sunday, and just 542 active virus patients.

Health officials are concerned that travelers will bring new variants of the virus back with them after visits abroad, possibly setting off a new wave if the vaccine is not as effective against the strains.

Due to the success in bringing down infections and vaccinating its population, over half of whom have had the shots, Israel is heading to become one of the leading countries in the world from which travel to other countries will be permitted by foreign governments.

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