800 Israelis Returned From Countries Where Omicron Was Detected

YERUSHALAYIM -
The arrival hall at the Ben Gurion International Airport. (Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)

Authorities are scrambling to locate 800 Israelis who may have been exposed to the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, a defense official said.

The Health Ministry confirmed one case of the new variant in Israel, and said there were seven other suspected cases who were awaiting test results.

Four of the suspected cases returned to Israel recently from international travel, and three had not traveled, raising fears of community transmission in Israel.

The IDF’s Home Front Command was racing to locate the potential cases to quickly cut off any infection chains of the variant, which is feared to be more infectious than previous strains, Deputy Defense Minister Alon Schuster said.

“The variant that was discovered is worrying,” Schuster said at a media event in Mevasseret Zion.

“It looks like it might be more infectious, so we’re taking action as fast as possible.”

The Home Front Command was trying to locate hundreds of people who recently returned to Israel in recent days from countries where Omicron is feared to be spreading. The Defense Ministry reopened quarantine hotels on Friday.

The confirmed case in Israel was an individual who returned recently from Malawi. Of the seven suspected cases, three were vaccinated and four unvaccinated.

The potential cases will be ordered immediately to self-isolate and Home Front Command soldiers will conduct home virus tests, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.

Switzerland on Saturday became the first nation to place fresh limitations on Israelis arriving in the country, as it largely barred those who do not have European passports from entering.