Israel plans to reopen restaurants in March, restart tourism with Cyprus

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel plans to reopen restaurants around March 9 and restart tourism with Cyprus as part of a gradual return to normality thanks to a COVID-19 vaccination campaign, officials said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: People walk inside a shopping mall with most shops shuttered due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, in Petah Tikva, Israel February 11, 2021. REUTERS/Corinna Kern

With more than 41% of Israelis having received at least one shot of Pfizer Inc’s vaccine, Israel has said it will partially reopen hotels and gyms on Feb. 23 to those fully inoculated or deemed immune after recovering from COVID-19.

To gain entry, these beneficiaries would have to present a “Green Pass”, displayed on a Health Ministry app linked to their medical files. The app’s rollout is due this week.

Nachman Ash, the national pandemic-response coordinator, said the reopening of hotel dining rooms, restaurants and cafes would happen “around March 9”.

“We want to open gradually, carefully so we don’t have another breakout of another wave, and another lockdown,” he told Ynet TV.

Israel began emerging from its third lockdown last Sunday.

On Monday, it signed an accord with Greece to ease travel restrictions there on Green Pass-bearing Israelis.

Hosting Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on Sunday, his Israeli counterpart, Reuven Rivlin, said there were similar “understandings” on allowing the renewal of flights to Cyprus, which has reported that some 10% of its tourism was from Israel.

No dates have been given for the implementation of the deals with Green and Cyprus. Israel has been closed to nearly all international air traffic as a COVID-19 precaution since Jan 26.

The country is on course to fully inoculate 30% of its 9 million population with the two-dose regimen this month, a benchmark for a preliminary easing of curbs. It hopes for 50% coverage and a wider reopening next month.

The vaccine campaign is a centrepiece of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bid to win a fifth term in a March 23 election.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Pravin Char and Raissa Kasolowsky