Travelers to Israel can now take rapid test, rather than PCR, to enter country

Antigen test must be taken in the 24 hours before arrival; move comes after Israel reopened to vaccinated tourists earlier this month

A Covid-19 testing center at the departure hall of the Brussels Airport. November 07, 2021. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)
A Covid-19 testing center at the departure hall of the Brussels Airport. November 07, 2021. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

Israel will now admit travelers who took a rapid antigen coronavirus test within 24 hours before their flight, under a new policy approved Wednesday by the government.

Previously, Israel required all those entering the country to have taken a PCR test in the 72 hours preceding their arrival. Now, travelers can take the antigen test as an alternative.

Ministers approved the change in a Wednesday night vote, adopting the Health Ministry’s recommendation.

Israel has gradually been easing its border restrictions as virus rates waned in the country, reopening to tourists on November 1. Until then, the vast majority of noncitizens had effectively been banned from entering Israel since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The rules allow entry to noncitizens who were vaccinated during the 180 days before they boarded their plane to Israel. Fourteen days must elapse between the traveler’s second or third shot and entry to Israel (for Johnson & Johnson, one dose is required).

The move was seen as a vital step toward restoration of Israel’s tourism industry, which has been devastated by the pandemic and accompanying restrictions.

Travelers at the Ben Gurion International Airport on October 31, 2021. (Nati Shohat/ Flash90)

While the reopening has been welcomed by tourism officials, it received a mixed reaction from health officials, with some concerned it will expose Israel to new variants.

This week, the number of daily coronavirus cases started to rise, despite the country’s high vaccination rates. According to the Health Ministry, over 600 new cases were diagnosed on Wednesday. Health officials have warned that new restrictions could be imposed if the daily caseload hits 1,000.

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