JERUSALEM — Israel says it will soon reopen its gates to foreign tour groups — even as it battles one of the world’s highest rates of coronavirus infections.
The country’s Tourism Ministry on Sunday said it will begin allowing organized tour groups into the country beginning Sept. 19.
Tourists will have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, present a negative PCR test before their flight and undergo both PCR and serological testing upon arrival. Visitors would have to quarantine in their hotels until the test results come back — a process expected to take no more than 24 hours.
Tourists from a handful of “red” countries with high infection rates — including Turkey and Brazil — will not be permitted to visit for the time being.
Israel launched a similar program in May after vaccinating most of its population early this year. But the program was suspended in August as the delta variant began to spread.
In recent weeks, the country has begun administering booster shots to anyone who was vaccinated over five months ago. The campaign has shown signs of controlling the delta outbreak, allowing the government to begin allowing tourists to return.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— Two anchors of COVID safety net ending, affecting millions in U.S.
— Miami teen’s football game to honor dad who died of COVID
— Germany urges vaccine shots; warns of fall COVID-19 surge
— Florida deals with deadliest phase yet of the pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
WASHINGTON — The U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert says he believes delivery of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots will be able to start Sept. 20 for Americans who received Pfizer doses, while Moderna’s may end up rolling out a couple weeks later.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday that it is still the Biden administration’s plan “in some respects” to begin the third doses the week of Sept. 20, pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
The administration had hoped that both Pfizer and Moderna booster shots would be rolled out at that time. But Fauci said it is “conceivable” that for Moderna’s, there might be “at most a couple of weeks, a few weeks delay, if any,” while the company provides more data to the FDA on the booster’s efficacy.
President Joe Biden on Aug. 18 touted boosters as a protection against the virus’ more transmissible delta variant, and said Americans should consider getting a booster eight months after their second shot.
Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, said Sunday the administration had always made clear that Sept. 20 was a target date, and “No one’s going to get boosters until the FDA says they’re approved.”
Klain told CNN: “We’re ready to go once the science says go.”
ROME — The Italian health minister has indicated that a meeting of his G-20 counterparts could yield a pledge about ensuring COVID-19 vaccines reach everyone in poor countries.
Minister Roberto Speranza told reporters on Sunday, after the opening session of the two-day meeting in Rome, that he hopes the gathering would yield a “pact” about the challenge to bring vaccines to everyone, including the more fragile” populations.
Speranza lamented that there is a deep gap between wealthier countries and poorer ones regarding vaccine distribution. He expressed optimism the Group of 20 nations’ gathering would result in resolve “so that the vaccine is the right of everybody and not just a privilege for few.”
Italy currently holds the rotating G-20 presidency. Speranza also held separate meetings with the health ministers of Britain, India and Russia. On the eve of the gathering Speranza tweeted that “only by working together can we guarantee a fairer distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.”
LONDON — Britain’s government has confirmed that it plans to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs and large-scale gatherings from next month.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said Sunday that officials are looking to begin the certification measures from the end of September, when the whole over-18 population would have been offered two COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Zahawi told Sky News that this was the “right thing to do” to ensure the economy remains open. Lawmakers and businesses, however, have criticized the measure as divisive and say they could embroil nightclubs in discrimination cases.
“The best thing to do is to work with the industry to make sure that they can open safely and sustainably in the long term, and the best way to do that is to check vaccine status,” he said.
The plans mean that people who want to enter nightclubs and other large-scale events will be required to show proof they have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine.
Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said earlier this week vaccine passports will be required for nightclubs and large events from later this month as Scotland faces a spike in infections.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The kingdom of Bahrain has authorized a third booster shot of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine for anyone above the age of 18 who received their second dose at least six months ago.
The country’s coronavirus taskforce is encouraging residents who received the Sputnik jab to register for the extra dose. Already, the government has rolled out Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots to people six months after they received two shots of China’s Sinopharm vaccine.
The Mideast island nation is one of the world’s leaders in per-capita inoculations, largely relying on the Sinopharm shot. Daily infections in the country of 1.6 million have sharply declined from peaks reached a few months ago and now hover around 100 new cases per day.
The country, which has recorded over 272,900 infections, is also producing the Sputnik V vaccine to supply demand across the Middle East and North Africa.
JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says the government’s COVID-19 booster vaccination drive will help allow the country to avoid a full lockdown during the coming Jewish holiday season.
Religious and secular Israelis alike mark Jewish new year Rosh Hashana on Monday night. Jews will also mark the fast day of Yom Kippur and the weeklong Sukkot festival over the next few weeks.
The holiday season is marked by traditional family gatherings as well as packed services in synagogues. The government has urged families to avoid large gatherings. And synagogue prayers will be limited to small groups of vaccinated people.
Bennett told his Cabinet on Sunday that unvaccinated children shouldn’t be brought to synagogues.
Last year the holiday season led to a spike in coronavirus infections that resulted in a full lockdown.
BERLIN — The German disease control agency says that more than 4 million people have contracted the coronavirus in the country since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The Robert Koch Institute reported 4,005,641 cases on Sunday. The actual number of cases is likely much higher as many infections go unnoticed. The institute said 92,346 people have died of COVID-19 in Germany.
Top health officials have urged more citizens to get vaccinated.
More than 61% of the German population, or 50.9 million people, are fully vaccinated, but that’s less than in other European countries. The daily vaccination rate has been dropping for weeks.
Germany’s disease control agency on Saturday reported 10,835 new COVID-19 cases. That’s up from 10,303 a week ago.
OLYMPIA, Washington — Days after suing to block what is believed to be among the nation’s strictest COVID-19 employee vaccine mandates, Washington’s largest state labor union has announced a tentative agreement for Gov. Jay Inslee’s order for state workers.
The Northwest News Network reports the Washington Federation of State Employees has negotiated terms for Inslee’s mandate that all 46,000 of its union members be fully vaccinated by October 18 or lose their jobs.
The new agreement, which still needs to be ratified, was announced Saturday and defines the exceptions and religious and medical exemptions process for employees who can’t or won’t get their shots.
FRANKFORT, Kentucky — Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has announced that he’s calling the state’s Republican-led legislature into a special session to shape pandemic policies as the state struggles with a record surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
The return of lawmakers to the state Capitol starts Tuesday and marks a dramatic power shift in coronavirus-related policymaking in the Bluegrass State following a landmark court ruling.
Since the pandemic hit Kentucky, the governor mostly acted unilaterally in setting statewide virus policies, but the state Supreme Court shifted those decisions to the legislature.
“Now, that burden will fall in large part on the General Assembly,” Beshear said Saturday. “It will have to carry much of that weight to confront unpopular choices and to make decisions that balance many things, including the lives and the possible deaths of our citizens.”