Israel, Cyprus agree travel deal for vaccinated citizens
Israel and Cyprus have agreed in principle a deal allowing coronavirus-vaccinated citizens of the two countries to travel between them without limitations, once passenger flights resume, Israel's president said Sunday.
Israel reached a similar agreement with Greece last week, as the Mediterranean nations seek to revive tourism industries battered by the pandemic.
The "green pass" agreed between the two nations will "allow the renewal of flights between Israel and Cyprus", Israel's President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement after meeting his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades.
Rivlin's spokesman Jonathan Cummings confirmed to AFP that the "green pass" would allow vaccinated people from both countries reciprocal travel.
The Cypriot president later met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In a statement after their meeting, Anastasiades confirmed that from April 1, 2021, Israeli citizens who have received an EU-approved Covid-19 vaccination "will not be required to take a PCR test to travel to Cyprus and will not be placed in quarantine upon arrival".
"The resumption of unrestricted free movement is of great importance to Cyprus, which is a tourism-dependent country," he said.
Israel's aggressive vaccination campaign has seen 3.8 million people receive the first of two required doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, while 2.4 million have received the second shot.
The country of nine million inhabitants, which is currently easing restrictions after ending its third nationwide lockdown this month, is aiming to vaccinate everyone over the age of 16 by the end of March.
The lockdown has also included an unprecedented airport closure to all but exceptional traffic.
Limited flights by Israeli airlines El Al and Israir have been allowed to fly in Israelis stranded abroad or fly out those needing to travel for "humanitarian or personal needs".
Such trips must be approved by an "exemptions committee" of health and interior ministry officials.
Israel's coronavirus cabinet on Sunday approved increasing the number of daily inbound passengers to 2,000 and allowing unspecified foreign airlines to take part, a government statement said.
Arrivals will be required to quarantine in government-run hotels.
Daily newspaper Haaretz reported Sunday that Israel had been under pressure from the United States to allow United Airlines and Delta to carry passengers from the US.
It said that El Al had enjoyed a monopoly on "rescue flights" from the United States since the restrictions were brought in last month.
Sunday's coronavirus cabinet session also decided that the exemptions committee will prepare to process an expected rise in travel applications.
Israel has recorded 723,038 coronavirus cases, including 5,368 deaths. The country's international airport remains closed to all non-emergency travel.
Cyprus has begun cautiously easing its own national lockdown following a decline in the spread of Covid-19 infections that peaked after Christmas.
The country went into lockdown on January 10 for the second time during the pandemic, after daily cases hit a record 907 on December 29, but daily detected infections are now running just above 100.
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