Israel becomes first country to close all borders due to new Omicron variant

Israel closed its borders due to the Covid-19 Omicron variant over the weekend, becoming the first country to do so.

After it was discovered that a traveler to Israel from Malawi tested positive for the Covid-19 Omicron variant, officials met for several hours on Saturday night to discuss the best course of action for the country. Only four weeks ago, the country reopened its borders to vaccinated foreign nationals. Leaders decided to once again close the borders for two weeks, beginning on Sunday night.

The country has red-listed travel to 50 African countries and implemented strict procedures for its citizens returning from travel abroad. Returning citizens must undergo a PCR test upon their return, followed by self-quarantine- three days for vaccinated and seven for unvaccinated. For those returning from countries in the “red” category, a PCR test will be required, followed by a hotel quarantine, lasting until a negative test result comes back, and then a self-quarantine and another PCR test.

Even with the country’s high vaccination rates – 80% fully vaccinated among those 16 and older – there are still concerns, especially with reports that the new variant could be more resistant to the vaccine.

Along with the travel ban, the country’s phone tracking technology would be used once again. The Shin Bet counterterrorism agency possesses a phone-tracking technology that can be used to monitor and contact-trace carriers of the virus and, specifically, the new variant. Aside from the foreign national who has a confirmed case of the omicron variant, there are several other suspected cases in the country. Leaders hope that this technology will help with slowing the spread.

“Restrictions on the country’s borders is not an easy step, but it’s a temporary and necessary step,” Prime minister Naftali Bennett’s office said in a statement. “The entry of foreign nationals into Israel is banned except for cases approved by a special committee,” it added.




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