New Omicron restrictions ban travel between Israel and US

Ban takes effect at midnight, marks first time U.S. appears on Israel’s Red List.

By World Israel News staff

The Knesset gave a green light on Tuesday to the government’s decision to add the United States to the list of more than 50 countries that citizens and residents are banned from travelling to and from as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to spread.

On Monday night, members of the Constitution Law and Justice Committee voted to add the United States to Israel’s Red List, in addition to Italy, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Morocco, Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey, committee spokeswoman Ronit Gal said in a statement.

This means that from midnight on Tuesday, Israelis will not be able to travel to the United States, or any of the other countries added to the list, without first seeking express permission from an exemptions committee. The move is controversial as hundreds of thousands of Israelis also hold US citizenship, and marks the first time the US has appeared on the list.

The US and others join the United Kingdom, France, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and much of Africa on the red list, with restrictions expected to stay in place for at least a week.

The Omicron variant now accounts for more than 73 percent of the new coronavirus cases diagnosed in the US according to data posted by the Center for Disease Control on Monday. Since July, the Delta variant had been the prevailing COVID strain.

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Health expert Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute told public radio: “Everyone knows the restrictions on the skies are to delay the arrival of Omicron, not to avert it.”

In addition to the travel ban, from Sunday, public offices will be required to have 50% of their staff work remotely. The government is also looking at extensions to the green pass system, placing new restrictions on gatherings, and withdrawing free PCR tests for under 12s in a bid to coerce parents into vaccinating their children.

Health Ministry Director General Dr. Nachman Ash has also asked hospitals to prepare to reopen COVID wards that were closed in October with the waning of the Delta variant.