Israel tightens travel restrictions on new COVID variant
Jerusalem – Israel agreed on Sunday to deny entry to foreign nationals and use controversial contact-tracing technology as part of its efforts to crack down on a new type of coronavirus.
The Ministry of Health said in a statement that the country’s coronavirus cabinet has authorized a set of measures, including red-listing travel to 50 African countries, banning entry to foreigners, and imposing quarantine on all Israelis arriving from abroad.
It also agreed to use the Shin Bet Internal Security Service’s controversial phone surveillance technology to conduct contact tracing of individuals confirmed to have been infected with the new omicron variant of the coronavirus in Israel.
Israeli rights groups have decried the use of cell phone monitoring technology as a violation of privacy rights, and the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that its use would be limited.
Dr Ran Palisser, chair of the government’s advisory committee on COVID-19, told Israel’s public radio Kan that the new measures were necessary due to the “fog of war” surrounding the new variant, saying it was “best to act early and tough” to prevent its spread.
On Saturday, Israel said it had detected the new strain in a traveler who had returned from Malawi and was investigating seven other suspected cases. Among the seven people were three individuals who were vaccinated and all have been isolated.
The novel coronavirus variant has been discovered in South Africa which scientists say is a cause for concern due to its large number of mutations and its rapid spread.
Israel, country 9.3. One million people, have reported at least 8,184 deaths from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. Most of its residents – more than 6.3 million people – have received at least one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and more than 4 million Israelis have received a booster dose. Ministry of Health statistics indicate that it has more than 7,000 active cases, 120 of whom are in a serious condition in hospital.
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