Grotto: Plan to Allow Tourists Into Israel to Be Presented by September

The empty arrival hall at the Ben Gurion airport.
(Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

After Israel partially reopened its skies on Sunday to arrivals from some 20 “green” countries which have low coronavirus contagion rates, the State Control Committee convened on Monday to discuss the future of aviation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Ministry Deputy Director General Prof. Itamar Grotto said at the Knesset committee meeting that his ministry was working intensively on an outline to allow groups of tourists to visit Israel, as well as for businessmen to resume traveling even to “red” countries.

Israelis and foreign residents are currently allowed to arrive quarantine-free from the United Kingdom, Slovenia, New Zealand, Georgia, Denmark, Austria, Canada, Estonia, Rwanda, Italy, Finland, Latvia, Hong Kong, Germany, Hungary, Cyprus, Lithuania, Greece, Croatia and Bulgaria.

State Control Committee Chairman MK Ofer Shelach (Yesh Atid-Telem) said the complete opening of the skies is crucial for Israel’s business and tourism sector. “The corona will be with us for a while, and this obligates us to create conditions for the safe flight of the individual passenger, and soon,” he said during the meeting.

Dr. Asher Sh​almon, director of the International Relations Department in the Health Ministry, said “developed Western countries do not consider tests as an alternative to quarantine. Over the past two months we have been in contact with more than 10 countries for the purpose of reaching a mutual [opening of the skies] agreement. But it was halted because [Israel] moved from ‘green’ status to ‘red’ status. We will have to reach the European Union’s benchmark of 200 new cases of corona virus a day, per 25 million people. We are very far from that.”

Airports Authority Director General Yaakov Ganot said that some 5,000 people departed from Ben-Gurion airport on Sunday. The airport’s director general, Shmuel Zakai, said “not everyone is clear on the guidelines and the test confirmations they are supposed to bring. Just this morning, 21 people were not permitted to board a flight because they brought the results of their coronavirus tests in Hebrew.

“We hope there will be some technological breakthrough that will allow us to administer speedy corona tests to passengers,” Zakai said. “Since Prof. Gamzu assumed his position, there has been a significant change for the better. Currently, Israeli business firms cannot meet people and create business, so we obviously must create possibilities for more departures.”

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