Salem Radio Network News Saturday, June 19, 2021

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The Media Line: Expert: Tourism to Israel Safe with Proper Safeguards

Expert: Tourism to Israel Safe with Proper Safeguards

As country opens its borders, some are wary of a return of COVID-19

By Tara Kavaler/The Media Line

With Israel slowly opening up its borders to foreign tourists, some in the Jewish state are concerned that a Seychelles-like scenario will develop in the Middle East.

Despite having one of the highest COVID -19 vaccination rates in the world at over 60%, the archipelagic nation off the east coast of Africa has seen a surge in new coronavirus cases as the country, renowned for its tourism industry, started welcoming foreign visitors.

As a result, medical professionals are concerned about renewed coronavirus spread as more people fly around the world, including to Israel.

“I’m getting my children vaccinated,” a Jerusalem-based doctor told The Media Line on condition of anonymity. “I just think that it’s the smart thing to do as people start going to different countries again. Who knows what will happen to Israel’s COVID numbers as people start traveling and more tourists arrive?”

However, not all physicians share that level of concern.

“It’s [permitting tourists from abroad to enter Israel] doable, but it needs to be done gradually and properly, mainly with countries with high vaccination rates and low cases of COVID-19,” Prof. Nadav Davidovitch, director of the School of Public Health at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told The Media Line.

“We need the proper integration and surveillance at the points of entry, mainly the [Ben-Gurion] international airport, but also at the land crossings from Egypt, the Palestinian territories and Jordan,” he continued.

Israel should continue to have people tested for the novel coronavirus before they enter the country, and quarantine all who are not vaccinated, he said.

Davidovitch added that tourism and other travel for business and conferences cannot be prevented indefinitely, for economic reasons.

Still, about 33% of new coronavirus cases in Seychelles stemmed from people who were inoculated.

In the region, spread of the novel virus among those who have been vaccinated has prompted Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to offer a third, booster, shot to recipients of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, over concerns about its efficacy.  

When asked about COVID-19 strains, such as the highly contagious Delta (aka the Indian) variant, and possible new ones down the road that might be immune to the vaccines, Davidovitch said that they are not enough of a threat to public health to warrant stopping the movement of people between countries that have the pandemic relatively well under control.

“I don’t think variants should prevent moving forward with tourists and international travel, except for countries with high rates of incidents like India,” he said.

On Saturday, for the first time, no new locally contracted coronavirus cases were identified in Israel, the Health Ministry said. Four carriers were identified but all four recently arrived from overseas.

And this coming Tuesday, wearing masks will only be required inside schools, with the only other restrictions remaining in place concerning people arriving from abroad.

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 3 pm Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0) on Thursday.

Country

Confirmed Cases

Deaths

Recovered

Active Cases

Afghanistan

87,716

3,412

60,280

24,024

Algeria

132,034

3,544

91,894

36,596

Bahrain

254,920

1,171

236,301

17,448

Cyprus

72,996

367

70,701

1,928

Djibouti

11,567

154

11,395

18

Egypt

270,292

15,471

198,632

56,189

Iran

2,990,714

81,519

2,590,682

318,513

Iraq

1,242,540

16,648

1,159,973

65,919

Israel

839,585

6,418

832,981

186

Jordan

741,699

9,561

723,637

8,501

Kuwait

321,648

1,806

304,916

14,926

Lebanon

541,940

7,780

525,065

9,095

Libya

188,386

3,155

174,223

11,008

Mauritania

19,923

470

18,946

507

Morocco

522,389

9,190

509,958

3,241

Oman

230,219

2,467

207,795

19,957

Pakistan

937,434

21,529

871,669

44,236

Palestinian Territories

310,544

3,520

302,357

4,667

Qatar

219,281

574

216,301

2,406

Saudi Arabia

461,242

7,503

443,810

9,929

Somalia

14,779

774

6,995

7,010

Sudan

36,203

2,719

29,841

3,643

Syria

24,723

1,801

21,653

1,269

Tunisia

360,285

13,229

316,004

31,052

Turkey

5,306,690

48,428

5,179,833

78,429

United Arab Emirates

589,423

1,710

568,828

18,885

Yemen

6,832

1,337

3,675

1,820

Total

16,736,004

266,257

15,678,345

791,402

Steven Ganot contributed to this report.

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