There is a possibility that the Israeli government could decide to add the United States and Canada to the list of ‘red’ countries on Sunday, as the number of cases of the Omicron variant surpassed 130, and daily cases also reached an all-time high. An outbreak of the Omicron variant in the Knesset forced more than 100 people into quarantine. The government of Israel has imposed a number of travel restrictions on Israelis as well as foreigners to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of the virus, which includes categorizing a number of countries as ‘red’ because of their growing number of cases.
Israelis require special permission for traveling to these red countries and anyone coming back from these countries has to quarantine for at least seven days, regardless of their vaccination status. The Prime Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett has said that he wants to shut down all travel, not just for foreigners, but also for Israelis, for a brief period of time. According to the premier, this would help them in learning more about the new variant, especially discovering whether it results in a serious disease or not. The data indicates that Omicron is at least four times more infectious than the highly-contagious Delta variant.
However, Nitzan Horowitz, the Health Minister, is not in favor of closing the skies. Rather than doing so, the ministers have decided to add more countries to the no-fly list. This may include Canada, the US, Turkey, Portugal, Belgium, Germany and Morocco. Horowitz stated that most of the cases of the Omicron variant were coming to Israel from abroad, due to which travel to specific destinations needs to be restricted. A Health Ministry spokesperson said that even though no decision had been made about any of these countries, the ministry was keeping track of the data from all countries carefully.
Health officials in the US have issued warnings about expecting a massive outbreak of the Omicron variant in the coming weeks. COVID cases have already reached a record high in New York over the weekend, as there were more than 21,000 cases daily. Late Friday night, the Prime Minister’s Office in Israel announced that the Purple Ribbon outline would possibly be implemented in all indoor shopping malls. For days, there have been discussions about how to handle the malls. This decision was made jointly by Horowitz, Bennett, MK Abir Kara and Economy Minister Orna Barbivay. Bennett had wanted to use the Green Pass programs for the malls, but some members of the government and retailers had opposed this vehemently.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus continues to spread in Israel, along with the number of Omicron cases. There were 134 cases of the new variant on Friday. There are also 307 cases in the country that are suspected to be the same. In addition, more than 800 people tested positive for COVID on both Friday and Saturday, with 838 on the former and 873 on the latter. This number is the highest that has been recorded since late October.