Israel will ban foreign nationals from entering its territory from Sunday evening in the hope of slowing the spread of the new variant of the Omicron coronavirus, a case of which has been confirmed in the country, authorities said.
"The entry of foreign nationals into Israel is prohibited except for cases approved by a special committee," the prime minister's office said in a statement, specifying that the measure came into force on Sunday evening.
Vaccinated Israeli citizens will be required to take a PCR test and self-quarantine for three days, a measure extended to seven days for those unvaccinated, the statement said.
These decisions were taken at the end of a meeting of the cabinet in charge of the fight against the coronavirus, and come to put a stop to the reopening of the borders, on November 1, to vaccinated foreign tourists.
"We are close to an emergency situation"
The announcement of these measures, which still have to be approved by the government in the morning, comes a few hours before the start of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the "festival of lights", which lasts for eight days and during which many gatherings and festivities take place.
The rules on gatherings will not be changed apart from the requirement to present a health pass for events bringing together 50 people instead of 100 previously, authorities said.
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Friday a series of measures to identify potentially infected people and limit travel between Israel and the African continent, after the detection at home of a case of the Omicron variant in a traveler returning from Malawi .
"We are close to an emergency situation (...) We will not take any risks," said Bennett, suggesting the adoption of new "strong and rapid" measures on the part of his government.
The Hebrew state was one of the first countries to launch, in December 2020, a vast vaccination campaign that allowed the double vaccination of more than 5.77 million of the approximately nine million Israelis, or more than 80% of adults, and given a booster dose to four million people.