Israel to ban unvaccinated US tourists, even if they had COVID-19
Travelers vaccinated with Sputnik allowed entry beginning Nov. 15 * Foreigners who come to Israel on forged documents will be denied entry for five years.
Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months and wish to enter Israel under the government’s new tourism outline will not be allowed to unless they have a digital recovery certificate, the Health Ministry said Thursday.
This means travelers who do not have access to such documentation will not be able to enter Israel. Only recovered patients from about 45 countries that are participating in the European Union’s Digital Passport Program will be recognized as recovered and meet the criteria for entry.
Individuals who recovered more than six months prior will still need to receive at least one shot of a verified vaccine.
A US tourist who had COVID but was also vaccinated with two shots, either before or after being sick, will be allowed into Israel, assuming that the second vaccine was given in the last six months; if longer, the tourist will need to receive a booster shot.
The move comes out of concern that travelers could forge positive PCR test results to claim they had previously been sick with and then recovered from the virus.
Thousands of incoming Israeli travelers have forged negative PCR test results to board planes back to the country. The boldest example of this were hundreds of travelers returning from Uman, Ukraine, after Rosh Hashanah. They presented negative test results so they could board planes but then tested positive after landing in Israel.
The outline will still accept paper vaccination certificates, such as the vaccination cards provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the US is working toward digitizing vaccine certificates, digitized recovery certificates do not seem to be on the agenda.
The new policy holds recovered travelers to a higher standard than even Israelis, whose Green Passes last in perpetuity if they take one shot after recovering – at least for now. Someone with two shots who has not recovered only receives a Green Pass for up to six months.
Getting more than one shot after having had COVID is not recommended or generally available in any country.
Last week, the Prime Minister’s Office shared a first draft of the travel plan in which recovered individuals who could prove they tested positive at least 11 and no more than 180 days prior to entering Israel would be eligible to enter.
These criteria would apply to recovered patients without digital certificates now; as noted, people would have to show that they received two vaccines in the last six months to enter Israel, or two older vaccines and a booster shot if the recovery certificate is not valid.
YAD L’OLIM, an organization that has been working to help bring relatives of new immigrants into Israel for the past several months, posted about the change in policy on Facebook. Since then, hundreds of messages from concerned travelers have arrived, Yad L’Olim founder Dov Lipman said.
“Oh no! This is not good! Does that mean a positive PCR within six months is not sufficient?” asked one traveler. “My husband had coronavirus at the end of August and is not allowed to get the vaccine. He received the monoclonal infusion and had antibodies with a very high number of over 800 – more than a vaccinated person.”
The traveler said her daughter had coronavirus, too. The family has already bought tickets and arranged a visit to see their family members who are studying in Israel.
“We will continue to work hard to change this unreasonable decision,” Lipman said. “This is not opening the country to tourism. It’s closing the door to tens of thousands of families of olim and Jews, in general, who desperately want to come to Israel.”
On Thursday, the Health Ministry re-shared the plan for entering Israel beginning November 1. This time, however, there were some changes, and the ministry provided additional details about how the rest of the process will work.
The plan states that all vaccinated foreign nationals can enter Israel beginning next Monday if they are jabbed with a vaccine recognized by the World Health organization: Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Covishield, Sinopharm and Sinovac.
However, in addition, it is now approved that individuals who were jabbed with Sputnik V vaccines, which the WHO has not yet approved, can enter Israel beginning November 15.
Travelers must have received their second shot no less than 14 days ago but not more than 180 days prior, or they must have received a booster shot, also no less than 14 days prior. For Johnson & Johnson, the same rules apply, although it is only a single vaccine, and then the booster.
People who took the Pfizer vaccine used to have to wait only seven days, but it seems the rule has changed.
All travelers must take a PCR test within 72 hours of travel and on arrival. People inoculated with Sputnik V must also take a serological test.
Travelers must enter the country through Ben-Gurion Airport.
“All foreigners who do not meet the above conditions will not be allowed to enter Israel through this outline even with full isolation,” the ministry said in a statement.
But it also confirmed that an exceptions committee under the auspices of the Interior Ministry will continue to operate.
Foreigners who arrive and are found not to meet the criteria will be stopped at the airport and sent back.
Those tourists who received permission to enter Israel before November 1 but do not meet the criteria after November 1 would likely not make it through the Healthy Ministry declaration form and therefore would not be able to enter.
To gain entry, travelers will have to fill out a Health Ministry declaration form 48 hours before their flight. Part of the form will include entering one’s flight information, the location where the individual will isolate for up to 24 hours and their vaccination or recovery certificate.
Passengers who have a verifiable digital vaccine or recovery certificate must scan and upload the certificate to the form and receive a Green Pass even before boarding their flight. Those who do not have one will need to upload a scan of their paper certificates and fill out an application form for shortening isolation; only then can they receive a Green Pass.
The Health Ministry said foreigners who are caught with forged documents will be refused entry to Israel for five years. A foreigner who tests positive for COVID on arrival or during his or her stay and refuses to be relocated to a coronavirus hotel or who breaks isolation also will be refused entry for five years.
A foreigner who does not test positive for coronavirus but is meant to be in isolation and breaks it will be denied entry into the country for three years.