Tourism minister wants visitors to be treated differently by their vaccine type

Yoel Razvozov says travelers inoculated with shots Israel are familiar with, such as Pfizer and Moderna, will not need blood test; those with Russian, Chinese vaccines will

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov arrives to the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov arrives to the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov said Tuesday he wants Israel’s future reopening to tourists to draw a distinction between visitors according to the vaccine they received for COVID-19.

Razvozov told Kan news that tourists will be divided into those with “vaccines known to Israel,” such as Pfizer and Moderna, and those from countries who offer other coronavirus vaccines, such as China and Russia.

Tourists vaccinated with a “known” vaccine will be allowed to enter with just a negative PCR test, while others will require a blood test to determine antibodies, the minister said.

A special rapid blood test facility will be set up at Ben Gurion Airport and will provide results within 15 minutes, Channel 12 news reported Monday.

Razvozov was to present his proposals to the coronavirus cabinet on Tuesday during a meeting of the forum of select ministers tasked with forming virus policy.

Travelers are seen in the arrival hall of Ben Gurion International Airport, on June 30, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israel has been allowing some tour groups into the country in recent months, but not tourists traveling independently. It had initially planned to reopen to the latter in May, but Health Ministry recommendations pushed the plans to July, then August, and now that date is now expected to be moved back until September, Channel 13 news reported Saturday.

The delays came amid a resurgence of the virus due to the Delta variant, less than two months after a dwindling number of COVID-19 cases — a result of a mass vaccination effort — allowed Israel to lift most restrictions and reopen public life.

On Friday, the Health Ministry announced that all Israeli travelers, including those vaccinated and those who recovered from COVID-19, would be required to self-isolate for up to 24 hours upon arrival to the country or until their coronavirus test comes back negative.

Meanwhile, those returning from 16 countries deemed to have high rates of infection will be required to fully self-isolate for 14 days, or 10 days with two negative tests, according to the ministry’s updated guidelines, which will go into effect on July 16.

Israelis who are vaccinated or who recovered from COVID-19 had been, until recently, largely exempt from quarantine upon returning to the country.

The Health Ministry on Friday also updated the list of countries with high rates of infection from which Israelis are barred. The countries that are off-limits for Israelis are Uzbekistan, Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, South Africa, India, Mexico and Russia.

The resurgence of coronavirus in Israel has been largely attributed to the spread of the Delta variant, which was first detected in India and is believed to be twice as contagious as the original COVID strain.

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