Israel will institute severe new travel restrictions due to the Omicron coronavirus variant, barring all foreign visitors and mandating quarantine for returning citizens.
The new regulations will take effect at midnight Sunday night and last 14 days, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement. Officials hope that within that period there will be more information on how effective COVID-19 vaccines are against Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa and has been dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.
Travelers who depart to Israel on November 28, will be allowed to enter Israel on November 29.
The Shin Bet domestic security agency’s phone-tracking technology will be used to locate carriers of the new variant in order to curb its transmission to others.
Israel has so far confirmed one case of the variant and seven suspected cases.
Under the new guidelines, announced by Bennett after a meeting with the Corona Cabinet, foreign nationals will be barred from entering Israel, except for cases approved by the Exceptions Committee.
Israelis who return from “red countries” (full list below) must take a PCR test upon landing in Israel, after which they will enter quarantine in a designated hotel until the results are received. Upon receiving a negative result, they will transfer to home quarantine and on the seventh day will undergo an additional PCR test. Upon receiving a negative result to the second test, they will be released from quarantine.
Israelis defined as either vaccinated or recovered according to Health Ministry procedures, who are returning from non-red countries, will undergo PCR tests upon arriving in Israel, after which they will enter home quarantine. Subject to undergoing a second PCR test on the third day with a negative result, they will be released from quarantine. Whoever does not undergo an additional test on the third day will be required to complete a full quarantine.
Unvaccinated Israelis who are returning from non-red countries will undergo a PCR test upon landing in Israel, after which they will enter home quarantine. Subject to undergoing a second PCR test on the seventh day with a negative result, they will be released from quarantine. Whoever does not undergo an additional test on the seventh day will be required to complete a full quarantine.
Student visa holders who are fully vaccinated/recovered will be allowed enter Israel at this time, as long as they are not traveling from red countries.
The government is cautioning Israelis departing for overseas that the regulations for returning may change while they are abroad.
The Green Pass will apply in closed spaces in which there are gatherings with over 50 participants (as opposed to the current 100).
Performances and activities over Chanukah will be unchanged, though Green Pass rules will be maintained, and the government says there will be increased enforcement of the regulations.
The Omicron variant, which since first being detected in South Africa has also been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, Italy, Israel, Germany and Britain, has sparked global concern and a wave of travel curbs, although epidemiologists say travel curbs may be too late to stop Omicron from circulating globally.
Israel is the first country to shut its borders completely in response to the variant.
It could take weeks for scientists to fully understand the variant’s mutations and whether existing vaccines and treatments are effective against it.
Following is a list of red countries: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Saint Helena, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Eswatini, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Sources: Prime Minister’s Office, Reuters, Chaim V’Chessed
Updated Sunday, November 28, 2021 at 10:05 am .