Israel closes borders again due to new Covid variant
Israel has issued a 14-day ban on foreigners entering the country to limit the spread of the newly detected Omicron COVID-19 strain.
The ban will go into effect on Sunday at midnight pending full cabinet approval, local media reported.
"The entry of foreign nationals into Israel is banned except for cases approved by a special committee," the prime minister's office said in a statement.
Several countries have banned travelers from southern African countries since the Omicron variant, a new strain of COVID-19, was first detected there on Thursday.
Israel has so far confirmed one case of the Omicron variant in a traveler returning from Malawi.
Israel's coronavirus cabinet rapidly drafted a series of measures on Saturday to limit the spread of the new variant.
These include a three day mandatory quarantine for vaccinated Israelis returning to the country and a seven-day quarantine for unvaccinated nationals in addition to the ban on foreign entry.
Confirmed coronavirus patients could be surveilled by the Israel's Shin Bet security agency, including through phone-tracking technology.
Since Saturday, all Israeli nationals returning from around 50 African countries must also quarantine in government-approved hotels and undergo coronavirus tests.
The Omicron variant has been described the World Health Organization (WHO) as "concerning", since early evidence suggests it could be more infectious than other variants.
However, the organization has not approved of hastily imposed travel bans, saying states should instead adopt a "risk-based and scientific approach".
Israel had only reopened its borders to foreign tourists at the beginning of November, after a very prolonged closure due to Covid-19.