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UAE, Israel Postpone Visa Exemption Deal over COVID-19 Worries

UAE, Israel Postpone Visa Exemption Deal over COVID-19 Worries

Monday, 18 January, 2021 - 17:45
Israelis prepare to fly to Dubai at the Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, Dec 3. (AP)

The United Arab Emirates has postponed the implementation of a visa-exemption agreement with Israel after Israel required anyone entering from the Gulf state to be quarantined as a COVID-19 precaution, Israeli officials said on Monday.


Visa waivers were a centerpiece of a Sept 15 deal formalizing Israeli-UAE relations. According to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, they were meant to have gone into effect by Feb 13, having been ratified by Abu Dhabi last Wednesday.


But the Israeli ministry said in a statement that its UAE counterpart had “suspended” the waiver agreement until July 1 “given efforts to arrest the spread of the coronavirus”.


Citizens of the two countries can obtain visas through their airlines, as tens of thousands have done since the normalization pact.


Monday’s announcement followed a decision by Israel’s Health Ministry to require that anyone coming from the UAE be taken to a military-run “coronavirus motel” for a quarantine lasting between 10 and 12 days.


Israel had previously exempted the UAE from its watchlist of so-called “red” countries. The UAE, with a population of 9 million, has seen a surge in cases this month, with new infections surpassing 3,000 per day for the first time.


Israel, whose population is of a similar size, has also been struggling with the pandemic even as it implements the world’s fastest-paced vaccination program. Israel’s Health Ministry has logged more than 5,000 new cases per day this week.


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