Israel issues ‘severe’ COVID travel warning for UAE

Travel to Gulf country could be banned if outbreak worsens; Peru removed from list of countries that Israelis are advised against visiting

An Israeli man walks past Emirati staff after passport control upon arrival from Tel Aviv to the Dubai airport in the United Arab Emirates, on November 26, 2020. (Karim Sahib/AFP)

The Health Ministry on Wednesday issued a “severe” warning against travel to the United Arab Emirates, adding the Gulf state to a list of countries which Israelis are advised not to visit due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

It also removed Peru from the list, which now includes the UAE, Uganda, Uruguay, Seychelles, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Maldives, Namibia, Nepal, Paraguay, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica and Tunisia.

A ministry statement said if there is not a “significant improvement” in morbidity figures in those countries, they could be added to another list of countries deemed “maximum risk” to which Israelis are barred from traveling. That list includes Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, India, Mexico and Russia.

The ministry noted quarantine requirements for travelers coming from those nations — including those vaccinated or who recovered from coronavirus — are in force until June 27 “and will be extended in accordance with the need in light of the morbidity levels in the various countries.” It also reiterated its recommendation against any non-essential travel abroad.

The statement did not further explain the decision to add the UAE, Israel’s 2020 Gulf peace partner and one of Israelis’ most popular destinations in recent months, to the list.

Health officials have previously complained that lax treatment of UAE arrivals contributed to new infections, but politicians reportedly feared angering Emirati officials by applying new restrictions so soon after the two countries normalized their ties last year.

An airplane of budget airline Flydubai lands at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv on November 26, 2020, on the first scheduled commercial service between the two cities, following the normalization of ties between the UAE and Israel. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The issuing of the travel warning came a day Israel lifted the mandate to wear a mask indoors, ending one of the last major remaining coronavirus restrictions in place. The pandemic has largely receded in Israel, with daily caseloads plummeting from the thousands seen at the start of the year to just single and low double digits.

According to the latest Health Ministry figures, 28 new COVID cases were confirmed Tuesday, with 0.1 percent of the 28,056 tests performed coming back positive, after an outbreak in which 11 students were infected at a school in Modiin. Police were reportedly probing if the outbreak was caused by a man who violated quarantine after returning from abroad.

The ministry said there were 231 active infections in the country, with 25 people in serious condition. There have been 839,720 confirmed cases and 6,428 deaths from coronavirus in Israel since the start of the pandemic.

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