Israel, UAE to Open “Travel Bubble” for Vaccinated Travelers

Visitors who have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine will get to bypass mandatory quarantine.

An aerial view of the Old City of Jaffa and the Tel Aviv skyline. (Photo: Shai Pal/Unsplash)

While “travel bubbles” have so far failed to inflate in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East will soon have its first such arrangement as vaccination efforts ramp up across the globe. Two of the countries with the fastest vaccine rollouts, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, are poised to launch a quarantine-free travel corridor next month. The plan has been confirmed by government sources on both sides, who say that their respective foreign ministries have entered formal discussions to iron out the details, with the goal of finalizing and implementing the agreement in April. The new “bubble” will allow travel not just for official and business purposes, but also tourism, though the quarantine-free arrangement will only apply to those who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

According to Oxford-based online publication Our World in Data, Israel is the only country that has administered more doses of the vaccine compared to the number of people, while the UAE takes second place in the global rankings, as it has distributed about 64 doses per 100 inhabitants. The most recent statistics show that 58.6 percent of Israel’s residents have received their first jab, while 4 million people, accounting for 46.2 percent of its total population, have now been fully vaccinated. As for the UAE, Dubai-based news website Al Arabiya English reported earlier this week that the UAE was nearing its target to inoculate half the population this month, as the proportion of residents who have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine had reached 48 percent.

Israel normalized diplomatic relations with the UAE in September last year with the signing of the Abraham Accords, and the move was swiftly followed by bilateral treaties on direct flights and visa-free travel. Low-cost carrier Flydubai currently operates regular flights to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, while Etihad Airways will begin a nonstop service between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv on March 28.

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