New restrictions go into effect on Sunday night
The Israel government has voted to ban all foreigners from entering Israel as part of an effort to stem the spread of the new South African “Omicron” variant, one case of which has been confirmed in the country and seven others which are under investigation,The Jerusalem Post reported.
The coronavirus cabinet met on Saturday night agreeing on a series of new restrictions. New restrictions go into effect on Sunday night.
For the time being, all individuals returning from any country – vaccinated Israelis included – will need to be isolated for three days upon entry into Israel. Travelers would be tested at the airport and then be required to take a PCR test on day three, and only leave isolation once a negative result is obtained.
Unvaccinated Israelis would be required to be isolated for seven days subject to a negative test.
Any foreigners who do manage to get permission to enter Israel would have to quarantine in a state-run coronavirus hotel.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett scheduled an emergency meeting with senior health experts on Friday to discuss measures to prevent the spread of the B.1.1529 mutation called Omicron.
“We are on the verge of an emergency; I ask everyone to be fully prepared to work around the clock,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Friday. “The new variant is very contagious and spreads faster than Delta. The South African health system is giving us information and does an impressive job, but we do not yet know all of the information.”
The Prime Minister pointed out that the coronavirus-preparedness drill Israel conducted two weeks ago “prepared us for this.”
“Our goal is to act quickly, thoroughly and immediately, especially when it comes to entering and leaving Israel until the situation becomes clear. When it does, we will decide what to do further,” he said.
Bennett ordered the acquisition of special PCR kits that are more suited to identify the new mutation. The government also decided to add several African countries—South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique and Eswatini—onto its no-fly list.
According to British Daily Mail, B.1.1529 was first identified by Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London. The strain is said to have 32 spike mutations compared to Delta, the dominant strain in the world, which has 16. Peacock described the mutation profile as “really awful” and “horrific.”
Thus far, 4,064,392 Israelis over the age of 16 have been fully inoculated, 5,771,214 received two jabs and 6,294,123 got their first dose. Since the launch of the children’s inoculation campaign on Tuesday, 15,750 kids ages 5 to 11 have gotten vaccinated with one dose, of the 1.2 million children eligible.
The ministry’s goal is to vaccinate half a million children by the end of the year, which is half of the target population.
Additional reporting from Israel Hayom via JNS