Israeli minister: We hope to welcome British tourists this summer

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Israeli minister: We hope to welcome British tourists this summer

During an interview with ITV's Robert Peston, health minister Yuli Edelstein also said he wanted to begin vaccinating West Bank residents who work in Israel

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Israel’s health minister has delivered an early Purim gift to British tourists hoping to be reunited with family and beach life by setting his sights on welcoming vaccinated visitors this summer.

Yuli Edelstein’s comments came during an interview on ITV’s Peston in which he also indicated workers from the West Bank coming into Israel could soon be vaccinated by the Jewish state and revealed that just 0.02 of those in recent days hospitalised had already received two doses of Pfizer.

Greece was the only country that Israel currently had a travel agreement set to go live but he hoped many others would follow. “I sincerely hope that we will be able to open our borders to British tourists too,” he told Robert Peston. “I understand that in your country the vaccination is moving forward pretty well. But I sincerely hope that by holiday season, it will be in our mutual interests to open the borders with the so-called green passports.”

Despite not receiving a request from the Palestinians and health matters in the West Bank being under PA control, Israel this month gave 5,000 doses of the vaccine for frontline health workers. In recent days, it was accused by the PA of delaying by two days the passage of the first 2,000 doses into Gaza.

A medical worker prepares a vaccine against the COVID-19 at a municipality vaccine center in Tel Aviv, Israel, Dec. 31, 2020. (Gideon Markowicz/JINI via Xinhua)

The minister said: “We are closely cooperating with our neighbours, including the Palestinian Authority. I don’t think we could start with vaccinating the population of Judea and Samaria before offering the vaccine to Israeli citizens, but we did make sure that their medical teams are getting the vaccine. I personally approved these measures. As far as the continuation of this whole operation is concerned, we will be following the developments.”

Peston asked why not vaccinate those workers who came from the West Bank into Israel, to which he responded: “A very good point, we are seriously discussing that these days and I sincerely hope it happens. My position is that we have to do that because on one hand they are part of our population practically every day and the second thing is I want to promote coexistence and cooperation. In this particular case you are talking about people who are coming to work here, some of them for many years, and it would be a very good idea to vaccinate them.”

Asked if the idea that you would have to show a ‘vaccine passport’ to gain access to leisure hubs like theatres had caused any controversy in Israel, he said: “There are some who are resistant to this idea, but we do have to keep in mind that it’s important measures and we’re not going to keep it like that forever. In some areas like in hotels we will be using these same green passes but we’ll add corona tests for example, just because of the fact children under the age of 16 are not being vaccinated and no-one thinks that you can tell a family that is finally going on vacation to please leave the kids home. Probably some parents would enjoy the idea, but you can’t have it as the policy of the country.”

Asked how he was putting pressure on those who haven’t had a vaccination to get one, Edelstein added: “It’s their best interest and we are opening at this stage certain sectors in our lives to those who are vaccinated. Not because I want to punish someone but for the fact that when I have say 300 people in a theatre, at least I know that there is little chance many of them are carrying the disease.”

Robert Still for Harry 17.02.21.jpg

Robert Still for Harry 17.02.21.jpg

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