Ramon Airport Terminal Building (Credit: http://www.ramon-airport.com)

By Leah Waxler

Israeli citizens travelling from the United Kingdom do not have to self-quarantine on arrival in Israel.

Passengers arriving at Ben Gurion Airport this week praised the government u-turn in policy but there is deep concern about a spike in cases.

The UK is among 21 ‘green’ countries this applies to for Israelis. The new ruling applies to Italy, Georgia, New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, UK, Hungary, Finland, Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovenia, Jordan, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Rwanda, Hong Kong, Cyprus and Greece.

Israel is considered a ‘red country’ due to its high rate. Most ‘green’ countries have banned Israelis.

Only Bulgaria, Croatia together with the Greek cities of Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete and Corfu have relented. Passengers must present a negative coronavirus test before departure.

The British government advises UK nationals against ‘all but essential international travel’ to Israel.

Health Ministry Director General Prof. Hezi Levy backed the new measure in Israel as they look to boost the travel industry.

The Ministry has launched a website with information about departures and arrivals from Israel.

Anyone leaving must fill out a departure report 24 hours before a flight. They must also sign a health declaration.

Only flight ticket holders applying through the website can enter to a passenger terminal.

Meantime, the first flight under an Israel-Greece bilateral travel agreement departed Ben-Gurion Airport to Athens on Monday. Around 100 passengers were on board Aegean Airlines Flight A3929.

Athens is one of four destinations Israelis can visit without a two-week quarantine.

Under the agreement, 600 Israeli visitors can visit Athens with proof of a negative protest no more than 72 hours before take-off.

Fifteen Israeli passengers had outdated coronavirus tests or incomplete online passenger locator forms from the Greek government.

“We took into account that such cases may occur,” Aegean Airlines commercial director Debbie Spiegel reportedly said. “Corners cannot be cut and instructions must be followed precisely.

“If the coronavirus test has to be completed within 72 hours of take-off, we cannot board anyone who presents results of a test conducted a week ago.”

Israel is attempting to increase international travel.

The carrier has flights to Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Varna and Croatia this week.

El Al chairman Eli Defes, meanwhile, has resigned due to an undisclosed medical condition.

Vice chairman Either Yehuda Levy or Tamar Mozes-Borovitz are expected to succeed Defes.

Israel’s national airline has struggled to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Defes joined El Al’s board in 2015 becoming chairman two years later. El Al is in negotiations for government support to avoid bankruptcy.