El Al passengers in airport
El Al passengers in airportINN:BC

The Health Ministry is considering scrapping the requirement for Israelis returning from abroad to test for coronavirus prior to boarding their airplane for the flight home, according to a report on Channel 12 News.

Other coronavirus tests for those traveling abroad and returning will remain mandatory.

Senior officials in the Health Ministry are currently discussing the issue with aviation industry officials including representatives of El Al, who have shown Ministry officials data showing that many other countries are not currently requiring their citizens to test for Covid-19 before returning home (although the test performed upon arrival does by and large remain in place).

Even if the test before boarding a flight home is scrapped, however, the change will probably not go into effect for another week or two, when Health Ministry officials assess that the peak of the Omicron wave has passed and the infection rate is definitely on the decline.

One of the main reasons why the government is now considering the change in policy is in order to encourage Israelis to go back to vacationing abroad, giving a boost to the aviation industry which has been hard hit by the ongoing crisis surrounding the coronavirus epidemic. Many Israelis have been holding off on traveling abroad, due to the fear that if they contract Covid-19 while abroad and test positive before returning, they will be required to go into quarantine in a foreign country and will have their plans seriously disrupted. The hope is that if the test prior to boarding a flight home is abolished, Israelis will no longer fear traveling abroad.

El Al CEO Avigal Soreq welcomed the news on Sunday evening. “The State of Israel, like other countries in the western world, has made the decision to start living alongside the coronavirus,” he said. “We are delighted that after two years of this crisis, Israel has made the wise decision to remove the barriers placed before the aviation industry. The western world as well as the World Health Organization understand that air travel does not lead to increased levels of contagion and that restrictions placed on international air travel are not effective in preventing the spread of the virus.”

Currently, any Israel citizen who travels abroad must take a coronavirus test in his destination country, prior to returning. A PCR test may be performed in the 72 hours before departure; an antigen test must be performed within 24 hours of departure. A negative test result must then be presented at the airport in order to board the flight home. In addition, a PCR test must be performed upon arriving back in Israel.