As the Omicron variant continues to spread across the globe, so do travel restrictions. Today, Israel announced that they are banning travel to the U.S., Canada, and eight other countries over concerns of the variant.
Israel Adds U.S. To No-Fly List
Today, Israel announced that they will be added the United States to its “no-fly” list, citing concerns over the spread of the rapidly spreading Covid-19 Omicron variant.
As of 2200 GMT on Tuesday, Israelis now need special permission to fly to the United States.
Israeli citizens and residents who are already abroad when a country is declared red must quarantine for a week after returning home.
The rare move to red-list the U.S. comes amid rising infections and marks a change to pandemic practices between the two nations.
Along with the U.S., cabinet ministers voted to put Canada, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Morocco, Portugal, Switzerland, and Turkey on the no-fly list. There are now than 50 countries its citizens cannot travel to. Britain and Denmark were already on the red list, as was most of Africa.
Foreigners coming from red list countries are banned unless they get special permission.
Covid-19 In Israel
Israel began closing its borders and restricting travel in late November. Foreign nationals are not allowed to enter, and all Israelis arriving from overseas are required to quarantine, including vaccinated people.
The Health Ministry of Israel says they logged 134 confirmed Omicron cases so far and suspect another 307 cases.
Speaking before Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Naftali Bennet said that he would continue to restrict travel in order to avoid further lockdowns.
“We bought precious time for the State of Israel,” by curbing travel immediately after the new variant was detected last month in South Africa.
“European countries are either in lockdown or are heading that way,” he said, stressing that for Israel “time is running out”
He predicted a surge of sicknesses within a few weeks, despite rolling out a world-leading vaccination campaign early this year. More than 4.1 million of Israel’s 9.3 million people have received a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Ran Balicer, chairman of Israel’s national expert panel on Covid-19, said the travel rules were allowing for most life to continue as usual inside Israel.
“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,” he said.
Balicer estimated that Israel would ease its restrictions once local transmission of Omicron began to rise, reducing the relative proportion of cases coming in from overseas.
Omicron Travel Restrictions In Canada and The U.S.
Last week, the Canadian government issued a new travel advisory telling all Canadians to avoid non-essential international travel for at least the next four weeks. The government also restored the PCR test requirement for short trips after reinstating the test and quarantine on arrival.
The U.S. changed its testing requirement for all international arrivals, shortening the window for the pre-test to 24 hours. Despite rising cases of Covid-19 in the U.S., over 100 million Americans are expected to travel over Christmas and New Years.