JERUSALEM - Israel will start allowing the limited entry of vaccinated tourist groups next month as its own inoculation campaign has sharply brought down COVID-19 infections, an official statement said on Tuesday.
All foreign visitors will be required to present a negative PCR test before boarding a flight to Israel, and a serological test to prove their vaccination upon arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv.
A statement issued by the health and tourism ministries said "a limited number of groups will start to arrive on May 23" in the initial phase of the plan. No exact figures were given.
At a later stage, group entry will be expanded and individual travellers will also be let in, with Israel's health situation determining the timeline, the statement said.
"Israel is the first vaccinated country, and the citizens of Israel are the first to enjoy this result," said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein. "After opening the economy, it is time to allow tourism in a careful and calculated manner."
Israel a month ago began to re-open its economy on the heels of a world-beating inoculation drive, in which some 5 million of the country's 9.3 million population have already received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
There are currently 3,369 active COVID cases, and daily infections have fallen to around 200.
Last week, after a public outcry, the government started allowing non-Israeli, immediate relatives to visit Israel for special events such as births and weddings.