Travel warning from CDC to Israel, West Bank, Gaza
Israel is perhaps one of the most vaccinated countries in the world. His government may have decreed that its citizens should no longer wear masks outside. The country’s education system can be relieved of all COVID restrictions. But that doesn’t mean the United States wants its citizens to visit the country.
In fact, on April 2, the Atlanta Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their highest level of warning to travelers to Israel, “including the West Bank and Gaza.” According to the CDC, “Travelers should avoid all travel to these destinations … Even fully vaccinated travelers can be at risk of contracting and spreading variants of COVID-19.”
The CDC’s warning comes as Israel resurrects its tourism industry. In January, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism reported a drop of more than 80% in tourism in 2020 compared to the previous year. The same ministry announced this month that from May 23, Israel will be open to fully vaccinated tourist groups. Individual vaccinated tourists could be welcome as early as July, the tourism ministry added.
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The Israel Population and Immigration Authority also recently announced that foreigners vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 and who have first-degree relatives in Israel can come to visit them.
There is no doubt that Israel’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic has been reversed since the country launched its vaccination program in December. True, the virus has killed more than 6,300 Israelis. But a recent study by the Weizmann Institute of Science, based on information from the Israeli Ministry of Health and published by computer biologist Eran Segal, shows that since the peak of the pandemic in mid-January, the daily number of patients diagnosed with the virus has dropped. 98 percent astounding. The number of severe COVID-19 patients has fallen by 93 percent; 87% fewer Israelis die from the virus; and 85% of Israelis aged 16 and over have been vaccinated.
So why the travel warning, especially now? The CDC includes in its alert the West Bank and Gaza, territories captured by Israel during the 1967 war. Palestinians living in these areas are partly under the governance of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, and their vaccination programs are significantly behind those of Israel.
But residents of those territories – especially the West Bank – are not completely separated from the Israelis, and the entanglement of the two populations has only increased over the past four years, according to a recent Associated Press investigation. The report says Israel has built nearly 10,000 more houses in the West Bank since 2017, about 28 percent more than in the previous eight years. More importantly, the new construction took place deeper in the West Bank.
According to official figures, nearly 500,000 Israeli settlers live in more than 100 settlements or outposts in the West Bank, or about 15% of the total population of the West Bank. Another 200,000 Jewish Israelis live in East Jerusalem, where more than 300,000 Palestinians live.
While this may explain the CDC’s travel warning, Israel and the United States agree on many aspects of travel between the two countries. Israel asks tourists to take a coronavirus test before boarding the plane to Israel, and upon arrival, another COVID test plus a serological test, which proves the existence of antibodies. On the return flight to the United States, passengers – including citizens and those who have been vaccinated – must test negative for COVID-19 no later than three days before travel or have COVID-19 recovery documentation during the three previous months before boarding. the flight to the United States.
Despite the length of the journey between the two countries, passengers are required to wear masks and are encouraged to get away socially – as much as possible – and wash their hands frequently or use hand sanitizer.
Until the relaxed restrictions on travel to Israel take effect, not only are tourists required to test negative 72 hours before their flight and have proof of vaccination, but they must also self-quarantine at their arrival for at least 10 days, according to the U.S. Embassy in Israel. . Quarantine has mostly taken place inside hotels, but Israel is experimenting with an electronic tracking bracelet, which would allow quarantine in a home.
Meanwhile, Israel and the United States – as well as other countries – hope to eventually agree on a vaccine passport, allowing the requirement for antibody testing to be eliminated.
For Israelis, opening up its tourism industry works both ways. In May, Royal Caribbean plans to launch a series of vaccinated cruises to the Greek Islands and Cyprus from Haifa for vaccinated Israelis, according to Travel + Leisure magazine.