Israel to ban entry of all foreigners over Omicron variant

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The ban, which is pending government approval, will be effective from midnight on Sunday and Monday.

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Israel says it will ban the entry of all foreigners into the country, making it the first country to completely close its borders in response to a new and potentially more contagious version of the coronavirus.

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In a statement on Saturday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days.

Officials hope that within that period there will be more information about how effective the COVID-19 vaccines are against Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa and has been dubbed “a sort of concern” by the World Health Organization. had gone.

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“Our working hypothesis is that the version is already in almost every country,” Interior Minister Aylette Schek told N12’s Meet the Press. “And that the vaccine is effective, although we do not yet know to what extent.”

The ban will be effective from midnight on Sunday and Monday. Travel restrictions were imposed on Friday on foreigners arriving from most African states.

Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from West Jerusalem, called the new measures “extremely strict” and said they marked a major reversal of policy allowing foreign tourists in early November.

“They are the result of a late-night emergency meeting of the coronavirus cabinet, which followed a brief announcement by Naftali Bennett on Saturday evening that Israel needs to act very quickly amidst all this uncertainty and risks to the progress already achieved. should not be put in. Against Coronavirus. ,

The new measures would also require all Israelis entering the country, including those who have been vaccinated, to quarantine.

Fawcett said Israelis who have been vaccinated will have to quarantine for at least three days, while those who have not been vaccinated will have to quarantine for seven days.

“And if newly coming back from one of the red-listed African countries, they will have to go to a government quarantine hotel, unless they test negative,” he said.

Separately, Israeli Prime Minister Bennett said the Shin Bet counter-terrorism agency’s phone-tracking technology would be used to trace carriers of the new version to prevent its transmission to others.

On and off since March 2020, surveillance technology matched virus carriers’ locations to other nearby mobile phones to determine who they had come in contact with.

Israel’s Supreme Court this year limited the scope of its use after civil rights groups faced challenges over privacy concerns.

The variant, which has also been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom, has sparked global concern and a wave of travel restrictions, although epidemiologists say such restrictions have caused Omicron to become world-renowned. It may be too late to stop broadcasting at the level. ,

Israel has so far confirmed one case from Omicron, with seven suspected cases.

The health ministry has not said whether the person was vaccinated in the confirmed case. The ministry said on Saturday that of the seven people with suspected cases, three had been fully vaccinated, and three had not recently returned from foreign travel.

According to the health ministry, about 57 percent of Israel’s 9.4 million population has been fully vaccinated, meaning they have either received their third shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or have received their second dose of five so far. It hasn’t been months.

Israel has recorded 1.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 8,000 fatalities since the pandemic began.

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