Israel removes UAE, UK and US from Covid travel red list

Rules come into effect from Thursday but are yet to be approved by government

Travellers arrive at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, on November 28. AP
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Israel's Health Ministry on Thursday said several countries including the UAE, UK and US would be removed from a Covid-19 "red list" of banned destinations, despite a surge in the Omicron coronavirus variant.

"The ministry of health recommends to the government to remove at this stage all countries from the red list," it said.

The decision goes into effect Thursday, the ministry said, adding that it was "subject to the approval of the government".

The measure was taken "in light of the share of infections of those entering Israel compared to the share of community spread", the ministry said.

Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mexico, Switzerland and Turkey will also be removed from the banned destinations list.

Last month, Israel barred travel to those countries among dozens of "red" destinations to try to slow an Omicron-fuelled surge in cases.

That ban followed a move in late November to block entry to all foreign tourists.

Israel this week announced that vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries could enter the country.

"Five weeks ago we closed the state of Israel to entry by foreign nationals," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday. "This greatly delayed the entry of Omicron to the country."

Israeli authorities reported 16,115 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, the highest daily load since the start of the pandemic.

There are 307 people in hospital with the virus, the health ministry said.

On Monday Israel began administering fourth Covid-19 vaccine shots for people older than 60 and health workers.

About 4.3 million Israelis have had three shots of a coronavirus vaccine, while about 2.8 million people of a population of 9.4 million have not received any shots at all.

Visitors to Israel will be allowed in from Sunday.

They will have to take a PCR or antigen test before boarding their flights and another PCR when they arrive, and they will be required to enter quarantine while waiting for the result.

Updated: January 07, 2022, 5:19 AM