Covid-19 omicron variant: Israel closes its borders to foreigners

Israel has imposed a two-week ban on entry by non-residents, just four weeks after it reopened its borders to tourists and pilgrims, ahead of the Christmas season.

The border closure is part of a range of measures the country is taking to minimise the spread of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant. It will reimpose home quarantine on Israelis returning from overseas, including people who are triple vaccinated, of three days. Israelis returning from so-called red countries will be required to do hotel quarantine for two weeks.

Controversially, it will also use the country’s security service, the Shin Bet, to track infected Israelis via their mobile phones. This was authorised once about 18 months ago, but using the security service in effect to spy on civilians instead of enemies proved deeply unpopular. It was also not highly effective and was soon halted.

Reintroducing security service monitoring did not receive unanimous support in Israel’s cabinet, but Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz defended the step on Sunday.

“The security services will only target the phones of people who are confirmed cases, so that we can contact all the people they’ve met up with and test them. It is a temporary measure and we will review it each week,” Mr Horowitz said.

Read the article in The Australian.