Israel has welcomed the first group of vaccinated tourists since the COVID-19 outbreak on 27 May, as part of its decision to gradually reopen borders to vaccinated international visitors.
“Israel is healthy and vaccinated,” Minister of Tourism Orit Farkash-Hacohen told them at the airport. “Restaurants, hotels, concerts, markets and sporting venues: everything is open.”
The group, made of theology students from the Prince of Peace Church in Missouri, USA, landed at 16:11 on flight UA 90, and is the first group in a pilot program by the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Health. Additional groups will arrive during the next two weeks.
“You are the first organized tourist group to visit Israel in over a year,” Farkash-Hacohen said, expressing her hope the first group was the sign of many more to come. “Israel is an attractive destination, with unparalleled historic and religious sites sacred to three religions, vibrant cities, amazing food and warm people. I am sure you will enjoy it all.”
Upon their arrival at the terminal, the tourists were greeted by Israel Ministry of Tourism representatives, who presented them with flowers and escorted them through the routine immigration and recently added PCR tests mandated by Israeli law for all incoming passengers.
Israel is a world leader in vaccinations, with some 85% of its adult population inoculated. As a result, it has curbed the spread of COVID-19 and announced that starting in June nearly all health-related restrictions will be lifted.
It is now running a limited pilot for vaccinated tour groups, in order to determine the best way to reopen its skies to vaccinated foreign visitors – while maintaining the country’s successful fight against the coronavirus.
“You are the first of what I am sure will be many tourists returning to the Holy Land,” the minister stated, explaining Israel was looking at ways to allow any vaccinated tourist to visit. “I hope you all enjoy your trip, and that you encourage others to come visit Israel after when you return home.”