Cyprus tourism received a set-back after health authorities demoted Israel from its low-risk country status, meaning Israelis are not exempt from coronavirus test rules, officials said.
After assessing epidemiological data, Cypriot health authorities put Israel in a higher risk category which means tourists must take a coronavirus test before arriving.
This stipulation was to be lifted next week for coronavirus low-risk countries.
Cyprus airports are now open to a band of 21 countries, although Israel has been struck off the low-risk list based on its worsening coronavirus statistics, authorities said.
Cyprus Tourism Minister Savvas Perdios said the government is concerned that Israel – its third-largest market after the UK and Russia – has received a higher risk status.
Some 293,746 of Cyprus’ 3.97 million tourists last year came from Israel – a 7.4% share.
“No one knows how temporary this will be, or for how many weeks Israel will be in Category B,” Perdios told reporters Thursday.
“However, the categorisation of countries was not made based on our desires but on epidemiological data,” he added.
As Israel is now ranked a Category B country people arriving from their must produce a health certificate for travel to Cyprus.
It had been a Category A country which meant that after June 19, Israeli tourists did not need to provide a COVID-19 health certificate.
Ironically, Israel was listed as a low-risk country when its tourists were the first to arrive in Cyprus on Tuesday as the island lifted its commercial flight ban imposed on 21 March.
Perdios said the coronavirus health risk assessment was done by epidemiologists based on country trends in testing, infection and mortality rates.
He said Israel was expected to be among those countries where a health certificate was not necessary from June 20.
“Certainly, the fact that it is now included in Category B is a setback. Let’s hope that it will not be something very serious that will last for months,” Perdios said.
“The safety and health of the community and of tourists choosing to come to Cyprus for their holidays are above everything else.”
The country risk assessment is reviewed on a weekly basis.
Under the new evaluation, 18 countries are in Category A with Switzerland, Luxembourg, Croatia, Latvia, Estonia and the Czech Republic being added.
Category A Countries are Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland.
Category B Countries are Israel, Poland and Romania.