Israel Bars Foreign Tourists Amid Omicron Fears

Less than a month after fully reopening to tourism, Israel again closes its skies to all non-citizens

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: Coronavirus
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and top health officials hold an emergency press conference as the first local cases of Omicron are confirmed. 
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and top health officials hold an emergency press conference as the first local cases of Omicron are confirmed.  Photo: Moti Milrod/POOL

On November 1, Israel fully reopened to tourism by allowing not only tour groups, but individual travelers to again enter the country. By the end of the month, the skies were once more closed as the first local cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 were confirmed.

On Saturday night Israel’s “Corona Cabinet” approved several new restrictions aimed at preventing a fresh wave of coronavirus infections fueled by the Omicron variant. They include:

  • A two-week ban on entry to the country for all non-citizens;
  • Mandatory quarantine for all Israelis returning from abroad – 72 hours for vaccinated Israelis, seven days for unvaccinated citizens;
  • Resumption of tracking by the Shin Bet (Israel’s equivalent of the FBI) of those suspected of being infected.

The decision to reinstate these restrictions was not unanimous.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, both of the right-wing party New Hope, voted against harsh measures to contain the Omicron variant at this time.

So far Israel has only one confirmed case of the Omicron variant, with seven additional suspected cases, including three people who had not traveled abroad, suggesting local transmission had started.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett insisted that Israel had to stay ahead of any potential fifth wave by proceeding with extreme caution.

“We’re currently in a period of uncertainty. It’s not a simple or comfortable place to be,” Bennett told his cabinet. “The key here is caution and minimal risks until we learn more. We want to maintain Israel’s tremendous achievement during the Delta wave — an open and functioning Israel, with a functioning economy, and an active education system with children going to school. That’s the top priority.”

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