All Israelis re-entering the country will be required to quarantine
Israel has announced that it will ban the entry of all foreigners into the country. This will make it the first country to fully close its borders in response to the new and potentially more contagious Omicron Covid-19 variant.
The new strain was first detected in South Africa and has been dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that, pending government approval, the border closure would last 14 days. Officials hope that within that period there will be more information on how effective the current Covid-19 vaccines are against Omicron.
The ban on foreign arrivals will come into effect on 29 November. Israelis re-entering the country, including those who are vaccinated, will be required to quarantine.
The Israeli government also confirmed that the Shin Bet counter-terrorism agency’s phone-tracking technology will be used to locate carriers of the new variant in order to curb its transmission to others. Used periodically since March 2020, the surveillance technology matched virus carriers’ locations against other mobile phones nearby in order to carry out contact tracing.
Israel has so far confirmed one case of Omicron, with seven suspected cases. Though the Health Ministry has not said whether the confirmed case had been vaccinated, three of the seven suspected cases are people who have been fully vaccinated, suggesting the new strain is vaccine-resistant.