Israeli ministers agreed to ban travel to the U.S., Canada and eight other nations in an effort to contain the spread of the new Omicron variant that has already infected 175 people in the country.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office confirmed the decision following a Cabinet vote.
“Italy, the USA, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Morocco, Portugal, Canada, Switzerland, and Turkey will be defined as red countries starting tomorrow (Tuesday, December 21, 2021) at midnight (the night between Tuesday and Wednesday), subject to approval by the Knesset Constitution, Justice and Law Committee”, a statement from the PMO reads.
The country’s epidemiology data point out that Israel could see between 400 and 600 new Omicron cases over the next week.
As per local media outlets, 17 people traveling from Miami to Israel tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, with most of them suspected of carrying the Omicron variant.
“Three weeks ago, I warned the citizens of Israel that a new wave was coming, the Omicron wave. One day later, the Corona Cabinet convened and we decided the first in the world to bar foreign nationals from entering Israel.”
Israel is one of just three countries in the world to have closed its borders to all international visitors.
The only way a citizen can travel to any of Israel’s “red countries” is by obtaining approval from a special committee.
And that is exactly what they would have to do if the measure receives final approval from a parliamentary committee over the next 48 hours.
Israel has led one of the most successful vaccination campaigns this year. While most countries currently struggle to complete the second dose, more than 4.1 million Israelis have already received a booster shot.
On Sunday, the Prime Minister urged citizens to vaccinate their children, claiming that the “fifth wave” of coronavirus infections had started in the country.
Thus far, Israel has recorded 1,356,579 positive cases and at least 8,232 deaths from coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.