Israel fights back as State Department issues travel warning despite Covid success

Despite Israel’s astonishing success against coronavirus, the State Department warned citizens against visiting the country due to a “high level of COVID-19.”

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel is fighting back and telling Americans it’s safe to visit Israel, a Tourism Ministry official told World Israel News Wednesday, after the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory about “a high level of COVID-19” in Israel, a warning that appeared detached from reality.

On Tuesday, the State Department actually lowered its travel alert for Israel from level 4 to level 3, but at the same time advised Americans to “reconsider travel” due to “a high level of COVID-19 in the country” – even though Israel has been gaining accolades for its national vaccination campaign that has dropped infections to record low levels and allowed the economy to reopen.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is communicating with the State Department and CDC,” to try and get a correction, Eyal Carlin, the Ministry’s Tourism Commissioner for North America, told WIN just before boarding a flight to Los Angeles at Ben Gurion Airport.

The State Department advisory came the day before the Tourism Ministry announced the launch of a new global campaign to encourage foreign tourists who have been vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus to visit Israel.

Carlin said the ministry is working in the U.S. to encourage Americans to visit Israel, talking to travel industry representatives, Christian leadership and Jewish organizations and forums. A major ad campaign for tourism was being launched in New York’s Times Square.

“For the general public – we have been pushing information to general media about the reopening of domestic travel in Israel and about the reopening process. We will also kickoff a general campaign to encourage travel to Israel and highlighting the success of Israel’s vaccination process and the preparedness of the Israeli hospitality sector and country in general,” Carlin said.

Israel Health Ministry statistics Wednesday showed only 86 new coronavirus infections in the past day with only 1,651 confirmed active infections and only 200 people remaining in hospital with coronavirus symptoms.

More than half of Israel’s population has been fully vaccinated with the American Pfizer vaccine, resulting in a dramatic drop in infection to its lowest rate since near the start of the pandemic. Hospitals have closed their special coronavirus wards, schools and businesses have reopened and sports and entertainment venues have been given the green light to resume operation – albeit with reduced numbers.

Carlin said the Tourism Ministry is informing Americans “about the vaccination process, the COVID related operation protocols, the reopening process and guidelines,” and has also been holding dozens of webinars with the latest information.

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On Tuesday, Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen announced the campaign to encourage tourists from countries with high vaccination rates including the U.S. and Britain.

“Israel today is a world leader in safety and health, and we will make sure every potential tourist knows this when planning their summer or winter vacation,” Farkash-Hacohen said. ”We cannot miss this opportunity – and, as minister of tourism I won’t.”

According to the CDC, 97 million Americans – almost 30% of the country – have already been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and are eligible to visit Israel. That number is expected to increase significantly by the summer travel season.

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