On Sunday, the health chief in Israel suggested that they might impose travel restrictions on some European countries, as COVID-19 cases appear to be surging in some parts of the continent. The Director-General of the Health Ministry, Nachman Ash said that some European countries may be classified as red, which would mean that people will not be able to travel there. While Ash did not give names of the countries to be put on the red list as per the recommendations of the Health Ministry, but media reports have highlighted a few destinations that may be on the list, with Austria taking the top spot.
A nationwide lockdown has been ordered by the Austrian government for unvaccinated people, which began Sunday night. The goal is to slow down the increasing rate of infection in the country. Authorities are worried about the rising death numbers and that hospital staff will not be able to cope up with the influx of coronavirus patients. Along with Austria, some of the other European countries that Israel may consider are Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland. However, reports indicate that Health Ministry officials are coming up with a plan that would permit travel to Belgium and the Netherlands, even if they are categorized as red.
This would include requiring the travelers to go into quarantine after returning, along with COVID-19 tests that all passengers must take before they board return flights and upon arriving at the Ben Gurion Airport. Later this week, a meeting is scheduled for ministry officials for taking a close look at Austria to label the country as red. Another plan that’s being considered is requiring all those who arrive in Israel, even if they have received triple vaccination doses, to take another virus test on the third day of reaching the country.
According to Ash, they conduct meetings on a weekly basis to determine if a country should be categorized as red. He cautioned that a few countries could now end up on the list and travel would be prohibited to these areas, depending on the rates of infection. However, Ash noted that they did not have any intention of barring the entry of tourists or adding any sweeping restrictions on travelers. He said that currently, the number of infected travelers arriving was very low. But, he did say that morbidity was always a risk, as long as COVID-19 exists.
Ash said that the declining effects of the COVID-19 vaccine was responsible for the latest coronavirus outbreaks in Europe. He said that health offices were keeping an eye on the effectiveness of the booster shot of the vaccine and so far, it hasn’t decline as in the case of the second dose. Ash said that they were hoping its efficacy would last longer than six months. The last three destinations that had been on the list of red countries in Israel due to high infection rates were Brazil, Bulgaria and Turkey and they had been removed in October, allowing Israelis to travel anywhere.