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Coronavirus: Israel eyes ban on travel to Cyprus

Israeli politicians members of the country’s coronavirus cabinet, a high-level ministerial forum tasked with leading the government’s pandemic response, has voted during a parliamentary session to add Cyprus, along with the UK, Georgia and Turkey to a list of countries Israelis are barred from traveling to over Covid fears.

If approved by the government, the ban on visiting will begin on July 30.

Cyprus is one of the most popular destinations for Israelis, as well as one of the closest. Throughout the pandemic, the island’s deputy ministry for tourism heavily targeted the Israeli market to attract visitors, due to the difficulties faced by Britons and Russians to travel abroad in recent months.

An incentive for Israeli visitors came into force on April 1, when the government decided that Israelis jabbed with a vaccine approved by the European Medicine Association (EMA) would not be required to take a PCR test to travel to Cyprus and would not be placed in quarantine upon arrival.

However, the recent spike in cases in Cyprus particularly as regard the Delta variant, has forced Israel, one of the first countries to begin mass vaccination for its population, to consider prohibiting citizens from travelling to the island.

Under the Israeli rules, flying to red countries will continue to be prohibited except with the approval of the exceptions committee, while people who have been vaccinated will be tested for the coronavirus upon landing in Israel and will be released from quarantine upon receiving a negative result.

People who have not been vaccinated will be tested for the coronavirus upon landing in Israel, will be quarantined for seven days and will be released from quarantine upon receiving a negative result for a test that was carried out on the seventh day.

The press release also says that the distinction between people who have and who have not been vaccinated was made in light of the recommendation of the health ministry and outside experts.

“We expected this kind of decision from Israel, it was always coming,” the director general of the Hoteliers’ Association Phylokypros Roussounides told the Cyprus Mail on Friday.

“They are worried about the Delta variant rapidly spreading in the country and the effect is reflected on airlines too. Many flights coming from Israel have already been cancelled.

“As it is, this summer has been difficult for hotels, but, if the Israeli ban does enter into force, I believe we will not see Israeli tourists in Cyprus for a while,” Roussounides said.

Meanwhile he said, Cyprus was waiting to see how the UK marker ultimately pans out.  He said that 20-25% of the tourist arrivals at the moment were from Russia and a smaller percentage from Slovakia and Poland.

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