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All returning travelers will have to quarantine, as Israel closes Dubai loophole

Thousands have flocked to UAE since peace deal, flying with no virus restrictions; move taking effect December 26 also applies to two other green countries, Seychelles and Rwanda

Rafi Revach (left) and Nissim Arush, two Israelis from Dimona visiting the Dubai Mall, December 9, 2020 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)
Rafi Revach (left) and Nissim Arush, two Israelis from Dimona visiting the Dubai Mall, December 9, 2020 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy signed an order on Friday that effectively closes a travel loophole to Dubai, ordering returning travelers from all countries into mandatory quarantine, Channel 12 reported.

Tens of thousands of Israelis have flocked to Dubai in recent weeks, taking advantage of the fact that the UAE, along with the Seychelles and Rwanda, were designated as “green countries” with regard to coronavirus restrictions.

Some 70,000 Israelis were expected in Dubai over the Hanukkah holidays, with posts on social media showing many partying and mixing in ways that are forbidden in Israel under current lockdown restrictions.

The new measure will go into effect on December 26, the report said, noting that some cabinet members were not informed of the move, and could still seek to oppose the ruling. Returnees from all countries on that date and after will henceforth have to enter a 14-day quarantine, the report said.

Under current Health Ministry regulations, that period can be shortened to 10 days with two negative coronavirus tests.

The UAE has been a “green” destination since August, with many believing that the decision was largely political in the wake of the signing of the normalization deal between the two nations.

It also meant that the frequent government delegations traveling there would not have to quarantine on return.

An Israeli passenger from a flydubai flight from Tel Aviv waves his Israeli passport on arrival at Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates, November 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

The Dubai exemption has seen crowding at airports and caused concern that returning travelers could be driving up Israel’s virus numbers.

Over 50,000 Israelis have visited the United Arab Emirates since the recent normalization pact between Israel and the UAE, according to a Monday report.

That number comes after only weeks of open commercial flights between the countries, which agreed to open the diplomatic and tourism floodgates in a historic agreement signed in September.

There are regular, direct flights running between Tel Aviv and Dubai, and both countries have declared each other “green zones,” meaning quarantine is not required for travelers upon arrival or return.

Among those visiting was Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who traveled to Dubai on Thursday in the first-ever visit by a sitting chief rabbi to an Arab country, his office said.

Israel’s Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, left, meets with Rabbi Levi Duchman in Dubai in December 2020. (Daniel Seal/Jewish Community Center of Dubai)

The report also said that the Jewish community center in Dubai is increasing its staff from five to “about 30” employees, and that nearly 150 restaurants in the UAE have begun serving kosher food.

JTA contributed to this report

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