Israel is scrapping all COVID-19 vaccine requirements for international travelers starting next month, the prime minister's office announced Sunday.
From March 1 onward, visitors to the Jewish state can enter the country regardless of their vaccination status as long as they take two PCR tests with negative results, according to a statement from Prime Minister Naftali Benett's office.
Travelers should take one PCR test before departing to Israel and the other after landing in the country, the statement said.
Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz decided to ease the rules of entry after a Sunday discussion on pulling back restrictions with Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov, the statement said.
At present, travelers to Israel must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by any recognized vaccines.
The recognized vaccines are Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Bharat Biotech, Sinopharm, Novavax, Sputnik-V, or Sputnik Light.
During the intense periods of the two-year pandemic, the country enforced some of the world's strictest COVID-19 restrictions for international travelers. The country shut its borders to foreign travelers in March 2020.
However, as cases began to decline and populations worldwide started to be vaccinated against COVID, Israel began to reopen to the outside world.
According to information from Reuters, about 46,000 foreigners came to Israel in January last tourists.
While this is an increase from the 7,800 in January last year, it is a number way below the 333,000 tourists who traveled to the country in January 2020, just before the pandemic struck, Reuters reported.
The country's decision to discard the last significant barrier for international travelers comes as the country experienced a fall in COVID-19 cases.
According to COVID-19 data from Reuters, updated Sunday, the country has seen a decrease in cases by 63 percent of the number of COVID-19 cases it had in its most recent peak.
"We are seeing a steady decline in the morbidity data; therefore, this is the time to gradually open what we were the first in the world to close," Bennett said, according to the news release from his office.
"Our indicators must be in sync with the situation on the ground; what we are telling the public must be in sync with what is expected of it.
"In order to maintain the public's trust and be certain that the citizens of Israel are implementing the directives and the government's decision, we must open up as the situation improves – and it is improving significantly," Bennett added.
"At the moment, the situation in Israel is good. This is the result of correct and dynamic management; therefore, we are now opening up. At the same time, we will continue to closely monitor the situation and in the event of a new variant, we will again act quickly."
According to the new rules, citizens of Israel no longer need to take an antigen test before departing for the country. They only need to take a PCR test after arrival in Israel.
Israelis who have not taken the COVID-19 vaccine no longer need to quarantine themselves after obtaining negative results from a PCR test at Ben-Gurion International Airport, the news release stated.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.