Israel is to welcome the return of British holidaymakers who have been vaccinated from next month.
The Middle Eastern country announced it will reopen its borders to groups of foreign tourists who have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine from May 23.
That is just six days after foreign leisure travel could be permitted to resume under Boris Johnson’s plan for easing lockdown restrictions.
Israel said inbound travellers will be required to take a PCR test before boarding their flight, and a serological test upon arrival to prove their vaccination status.
Full details will be released in the coming days. The number of visitors allowed will initially be restricted but will increase ‘based on the health situation’, the government announced.
A paraglider flies above a beach in Israel’s Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv on April 7, 2021
Individual travellers will be welcomed at a later stage.
There is speculation that Israel – which is home to some of the world’s most visited religious tourist attractions – will be on the UK Government’s ‘green’ list when it unveils details of its traffic light system for international travel.
This is partly due to 62 per cent of Israel’s population receiving at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, which is among the highest proportion in the world.
If Israel is on the ‘green’ list, UK holidaymakers would not need to self-isolate on their return, meaning it could be a popular summer destination.
Minister of health Yuli Edelstein said: ‘After opening the economy, it is time to allow tourism in a careful and calculated manner.
A medic collects a swab sample from a traveller at a rapid COVID-19 testing booth in Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, on April 6, 2021
Medics behind screens collect swabs from travellers at a rapid COVID-19 testing booth in Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, on April 6, 2021
‘Opening the tourism is important for one of the fields most hurt during the Covid year.’
Other countries that have said they will reopen their borders for UK visitors in the coming months include Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Turkey.
Meanwhile, a major coronavirus testing firm announced it will offer cut-price PCR tests for travellers returning to the UK.
Randox will charge customers flying with partner airlines £60 for the tests, which typically cost around £120.
The partner airlines have not been identified, but it is understood they will be major carriers and the discount will be available ahead of the summer.
A passenger wearing a mask for protection against the coronavirus pulls her suitcase past a closed shop at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, which reopened on March 7, 2021
Inbound travellers will be required to take a PCR test before boarding their flight. Pictured: Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv
Passengers get tested for coronavirus after they arrived on a flight to Israel at Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv, in Lod, Israel on March 8, 2021
Last week’s UK Government announcement that travellers returning from even ‘green’ destinations will be required to take PCR tests was met with an angry response from the travel industry.
Many firms wanted people arriving from low-risk countries to be able to take rapid lateral flow device tests, which are significantly cheaper and give results in 30 minutes or less.
PCR tests require swabs being processed in a laboratory, which can take several days and add to the expense.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency, said reducing the price of testing is ‘the magic wand to recovery in the travel sector’.