Israel first country to ban all foreign visitors over Omicron fears

Israel has shut its doors to foreign tourists, the first country to do so due to concerns about the new Covid-19 variant Omicron.

During a meeting of the Israeli coronavirus cabinet, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the country needs to use “caution” and take “minimal risks” as the world learns more about Omicron, the Times of Israel reported.

“We’re currently in a period of uncertainty, it’s not a simple or comfortable place to be.

“The key here is caution and minimal risks until we learn more.

“We want to maintain the tremendous achievement of the State of Israel in 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.

“To this end, we need to maintain tight control over the country’s borders. Every day, we will learn more and know more.”

The cabinet voted to approve the closure of Ben Gurion Airport to non-citizen international arrivals for two weeks, except for those who are granted special permission from a government panel.

It also approved mandatory quarantine for all Israelis arriving from overseas, and tracking infected people by the Shin Bet internal security agency, local Hebrew media reports say.

Vaccinated Israelis will now be required to quarantine for 72 hours and take another Covid-19 test of the third day after their arrival.

Unvaccinated citizens must quarantine for a minimum of a week, and can leave upon taking a test on the seventh day with a negative result.

Those coming from high-risk “red” countries must quarantine in designated state-run hotels, until receiving a negative result.

The rules go into effect on Sunday night.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar reportedly opposed the move.

“These are very harsh steps. It’s a question of taking risks and we’ve taken bigger risks in the past,” Sa’ar is quoted by Army Radio as saying.

One case of the Omicron variant has been confirmed by Israel’s Health Ministry, and there are an additional seven suspected infections so far.

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