International arrivals to Israel who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 will still be required to test negative for the virus to avoid quarantine, the government announced on Tuesday.
Travelers will need to test negative for the virus 72 hours before taking off on their return flight to Israel, and test negative again upon arrival in Israel, in order to test out of quarantine, according to a joint statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, the Health Ministry and the Transportation Ministry.
If either test is positive, the traveler will be required to quarantine at home.
If someone comes in contact with a confirmed virus carrier, they will need to isolate for 10 days and test negative twice before flying, the statement said.
Health officials likely made the decision because they fear vaccinated individuals may still carry the virus and spread it, and due to fears of new virus variants entering the country.
The virus testing laboratory at Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s main international airport, is currently not operating but can carry out 20,000 tests per day, Channel 12 reported.
Ben Gurion Airport has been almost entirely closed since January 25 as Israel seeks to prevent the entry of new coronavirus variants that have contributed to the latest, unrelenting spike in case numbers.
On Friday the government extended the closure until at least February 20.
Israel and Greece announced a deal on Monday to mutually recognize each others’ “green passports,” enabling the vaccinated to travel freely between the two countries.
Hebrew media speculated that the deal would be enacted shortly after the Passover holiday, which begins late next month.
Israel is also negotiating a deal with the United Kingdom and Estonia on a travel corridor between the countries for the vaccinated, according to Army Radio. The Monday report said the talks have been ongoing for several days.
Israel is also in talks about enacting similar agreements with Romania, Serbia, Cyprus, Georgia and Seychelles, the Ynet news site reported.
Israel’s third nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 was slightly eased on Sunday at 7 a.m., after over a month.
Israel continues to grapple with a high daily infection rate, despite the lockdown and its vaccination campaign, which leads the world in per capita inoculations.