The high-level coronavirus cabinet on Saturday night approved fresh restrictions to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, with ministers voting to ban non-citizens from entering the country for two weeks.
The new rules going into effect on Sunday night will see foreign nationals barred from entering Israel for 14 days, unless they receive special permission from a government panel. Israel reopened to foreign tourism in early November, for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Ministers on Saturday night also expanded mandatory quarantine for vaccinated Israelis arriving from abroad and gave the Shin Bet security agency the go-ahead to resume tracking infected people, according to Hebrew media reports.
Vaccinated Israelis — who under the existing rules had to take a coronavirus test upon landing and remain in isolation until receiving a negative result — will now be required to enter quarantine for 72 hours and take another COVID test on the third day after they arrive. Unvaccinated travelers must remain in quarantine for at least a week, and can leave isolation upon receiving a negative test result conducted on the seventh day.
Israelis coming from high-risk “red” countries will have to quarantine in designated state-run hotels until they receive a negative virus test result.
Top ministers sparred over the restrictions during the meeting, with Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton opposing strict limits to contain the Omicron variant.
The controversial Shin Bet tracking program, which had been utilized in the early stages of the pandemic, also got the green light after the director of the agency reassured ministers it would be used in a limited fashion for a short period, and only on those infected with Omicron, according to the Walla news site.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel needs to be cautious and minimize risks amid uncertainty over the new Omicron COVID-19 variant,