Sweden and Portugal have decided to ban the entry of Israeli nationals due to increasing coronavirus cases in the Jewish state, a move that’s expected to be followed in a number of other European countries. Israelis who were scheduled to fly to Portugal on Thursday were not able to check-in at the Ben Gurion airport. According to a representative from the Swedish embassy, the Swedish travel ban will take effect from Monday onwards. Even though Israel does have the world’s highest vaccination rates, Sweden and Portugal have had their eyes on the increasing case numbers and are no longer willing to make exceptions for Israelis who have recovered from COVID-19 or are vaccinated.
The two countries are only accepting vaccination countries from the European Union at this point. The decision by the two countries came after the European Union removed Israel on Monday from a list of countries that were deemed ‘epidemiologically safe’. It is not necessary for member states to follow the EU recommendation and Italy has chosen to impose a travel ban only on unvaccinated Israelis while welcoming those with a vaccination certificate. From September 6th, Spain will require a vaccination certificate of 14 days or more. The Czech Republic and Romania have also added that only vaccinated Israelis will be permitted to visit the said country.
As far as the Netherlands is concerned, it announced on Friday that from Saturday onwards, only vaccinated Israelis will be permitted into the country and they are also required to quarantine upon their arrival. From Monday onwards, Israeli travelers are also required to present a negative test for the coronavirus. According to some experts, Israel has become a ‘strange case’ for other countries to categorize. This is due to the fact that the country appears to have the highest rates of vaccination as well as infections. Due to this, countries will vary in how they decide to evaluate the risk posed by Israelis.
Frustratingly, the travel bans by Sweden and Portugal come just as many Israelis had already decided to resume overseas travel, after the government in the country relaxed their quarantine rules for returning travelers, provided they don’t come from ‘red’ countries that have high infection rates. The new quarantine rules took effect from Friday on travelers, as they no longer have to self-isolate for a week if they are immunized. The relaxation in the quarantine rules was expected to be a benefit for travelers. However, in the case of Sweden and Portugal and potentially other countries in the EU, the new ban will end up having the opposite effect.
An organization by the name of Over the Rainbow that promotes travel between Israel and Portugal appealed the decision by writing to senior ministers in Lisbon. Their President, Itay Mor said that Portugal was accepting travelers from Brazil and the United States, two other countries that have been removed from the safe list of the European Union. He said that it was absurd that Israelis were now being blocked from parts of Europe, given that they belong to one of the most vaccinated countries.