Why does Israel keep messing up the COVID travel rules? – analysis

Just two weeks after Israel reopened its borders to foreign nationals, albeit with significant limitations, the specter of banning travel to certain countries and the umpteenth regulatory error involving the Sputnik vaccine continue to show how the country is not working on its policies. traveling in the future. serious way.

In the days leading up to November 1, when Israel was ready to reopen its borders to vaccinated or recovered foreign nationals, many foreign nationals were eager to visit the county, be it for personal and family reasons, work / business, or a profound desire to explore the nation as tourists – he sighed with relief.

True, significant limitations were put in place in terms of who would be considered protected from the virus, but those lucky enough to meet the criteria thought they could finally travel to Israel without any drama involved. Those who did not, such as first-degree relatives of Israelis vaccinated or recovered more than six months earlier and not reinforced, imagined that they could continue to obtain special permits to enter Israel as long as they were willing to quarantine themselves.

It turned out that they all went wrong.

First, the criteria themselves changed several times in a few days. A first announcement by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on October 21 said that people would be considered vaccinated seven days after their second (or third) Pfizer vaccination, as is the case with Israelis. A week later, on October 28, just three days before the border reopened, when the Ministry of Health issued the official rules, the days had turned into 14.

Travelers at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on September 6, 2021 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL / FLASH90)

Furthermore, the ministry said that while non-electronic vaccination certificates would be accepted, this would not be true for recovery certificates, contrary to what seemed to be implied before. This left thousands of potential travelers from countries where such electronic documentation does not exist completely stuck, essentially all individuals recovered from nations that do not belong to the European Union’s COVID Digital Certificates consortium, which includes some 40 members, including Israel.

Then there were problems of lack of clarity and glitches in the system.

For example, nowhere in the Bennett and ministry statement did it specify that health insurance was required, but it was.

And although, in theory, inbound travelers were given 48 hours before the flight to complete the necessary passenger income declaration form, which included the presentation of the proper medical documentation, 48, 24 and even a few hours before the 1 As of November, the form had not been updated. to reflect the change in the system. It is not a minor problem considering that only by successfully completing the form, a traveler could receive approval to board the flight.

When asked about the matter on the afternoon of October 31, the ministry staff simply replied that “the form was supposed to start working on November 1,” the same answer given two weeks later to the people who asked. why they did not accept the form. the Sputnik vaccine as a valid vaccine on Sunday when, according to the official government website with the travel rules, it was supposed to be accepted from Monday.

On this occasion, another small surprise awaited those wishing to travel after being vaccinated with Sputnik: everything was delayed until December 1, hours after it was supposed to be accepted.

Meanwhile, even people who, despite all the zigzags, still meet the criteria for admission to the country, often find themselves denied permission to enter the country after completing the form due to failures in the system. Not even mentioning the day the system itself was supposed to be idle for four hours for an update and ended up idle for more than twice the time. Only at the seventh hour, the ministry sent a statement allowing people to board the flights without the statement.

In addition, as of the last days of October, the entire scheme that granted special permission to first-degree relatives of Israelis to enter the country, even for important life-cycle events, stopped working, leaving many who previously could visit Israelis. your loved ones with there is no possibility to do so.

Therefore, one cannot help but wonder: How can Israel continue to make such amatorial mistakes, both in designing the rules and in implementing them?

And even more disturbing on some level: why does no one seem to care about the emotional damage this causes to so many of its citizens and supporters around the world, or the economic damage to its tourism industry and many other sectors?

Month after month, rule after rule, the authorities do not even seem interested in learning the lesson of previous problems.

While everyone understands the need to preserve public health and protect Israel from the virus, this does not justify the constant delays, failures, lack of clarity and, frankly, empathy.

Meanwhile, Israeli citizens can travel back and forth as they please if they are fully vaccinated or recover.

This is perfectly fine: freedom of movement is a fundamental right of a citizen and should not be restricted except to protect an equally important fundamental right. But perhaps the need of a citizen who is about to give birth to have her foreign parents by her side should be as protected as the right to go on vacation to the beach.

Meanwhile, health officials have begun to hint that as morbidity increases in many countries around the world, Israel could soon once again ban travel to some nations. For many, these generic statements are enough to begin to feel anxious again about the possibility of being prevented from visiting or receiving visits from family members, as was the case for long periods during the pandemic.

In the coming days, mainly thanks to the efforts of the NGO Yad L’Olim, which has been trying to raise awareness about all these issues among the Israeli authorities, the Knesset is supposed to have a dedicated audience on travel rules and all these problems. , either before the Constitution or before the Committee on Home Affairs.

Only time will tell if this meeting can usher in a shift in focus or if everything will remain the same balagan.


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