by Shira Hanau
(JTA) — Israel will lift its COVID-related travel ban on visitors from the United States, United Kingdom and several other countries for the first time since restrictions were put in place in November.
Restrictions on visitors from Canada were eased on January 3, 2022.
According to Israeli media, the restrictions on countries given a “red” status because of their high rates of COVID cases will be lifted Thursday night.
Visitors will be allowed to enter provided they show a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of their flight. Visitors would still be required to quarantine upon arrival until receiving a negative COVID test result.
The ban on foreign travelers has been a controversial issue in Israel in recent weeks. American immigrants to Israel have been especially vocal about the bans, which have kept their family members out of the country, even for lifecycle events such as weddings or the birth of a grandchild.
While the travel bans were initially imposed to keep the rapidly-spreading Omicron variant out of the country, Israel’s health minister has admitted that “there is no point in stopping [Omicron’s] entry from abroad” in an interview with the country’s public broadcaster, according to The Times of Israel.