The decision marks the first time Israel explicitly places the United States on its no-fly list.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
Israel’s cabinet voted on Monday to add the U.S. and Canada to a rapidly growing “red list” of countries to which Israelis are banned from traveling, over fears of the spread of the Omicron variant in those destinations.
Israelis wishing to fly to countries on the list must receive permission from an exceptions committee, typically for humanitarian purposes.
With a maximally restrictive blanket ban on foreigners already in place, the ban primarily affects Israeli citizens returning from red list destinations.
Regardless of vaccination or recovery status, Israelis flying to the Jewish State from red list countries will be forced to isolate in state-run quarantine hotels.
The addition of the U.S. and Canada to the list is set to begin at midnight Tuesday after receiving the final approval of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. As of present time, there are 50 countries on the Health Ministry’s red list.
The decision marks the first time Israel explicitly places the U.S. on its no-fly list. In the early days of the pandemic, the Jewish State attempted to avoid signaling out certain countries, including and primarily the U.S., by implementing a blanket travel ban.
Israeli health experts told the media that the Jewish State’s strict border policies are critical for avoiding yet another lockdown in the country.
“The more strict you are in preventing importation and delaying local transmission, the more lax you can be in disturbing the economy and everyday life,” Ran Balicer, who chairs a Knesset coronavirus advisory panel, told AFP.
Despite initial research showing that the Omicron may be less likely to cause serious illness and death than previous strains of the virus, and Israel’s high vaccination rate, the Israeli government has adopted a crisis response to the variant.
During a Sunday evening address to the nation, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the fifth wave of coronavirus in Israel “has begun” and that he expected the variant to become widespread in the country within the coming weeks.
After a snafu last week in which Bennett falsely said that two British children had died due to the Omicron variant, the premier revisited his assertion that the strain is particularly dangerous to kids.
“Vaccines for children are safe, and they are the responsibility of parents,” he said. “Don’t leave your children vulnerable to Omicron.
“Every hour you wait is a wasted hour. After a first shot it will take children four to five weeks to be protected. If you wait for the wave to hit, it will be too late.”
Some 1,004 Israelis were diagnosed with coronavirus on Sunday, the highest number since October.
Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.