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Omicron: Israel to ban citizens from travel to UAE and several European countries

From Sunday evening, Israelis will not be allowed to travel to the UAE, France, Spain, Ireland, Norway, Finland or Sweden
Passengers arriving from the United States take their luggage through Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport near Lod on 1 November 2021, as Israel reopened to tourists vaccinated against Covid-19 (AFP/file photo)

Israel has added the United Arab Emirates, France, Spain, Ireland, Norway, Finland and Sweden to its "red list" of countries, the health ministry announced on Wednesday. The restrictions will be effective from Sunday evening. 

The "red list" already includes most African countries as well as the UK and Denmark.

Israeli citizens are forbidden to travel to "red list" countries, while foreign nationals from those countries are not allowed entry to Israel. 

According to the latest rules, Israelis who are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 travelling back from red countries will be required to quarantine at home for one week, and will only be released after proof of a negative PCR test at the end of the seven-day period. 

Those who are unvaccinated must stay in a quarantine hotel upon arrival, and can be transferred to home quarantine if their Covid test results are negative. 

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Israel has 89 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus variant as of Tuesday; 21 of them ocurring in unvaccinated people, according to the health ministry.

Meanwhile, Israel's defence minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday said he was currently in quarantine after a member of his staff tested positive for Covid-19, and may be an Omicron carrier.

Israel last month was the first country to close its borders to foreigners after news of the new Omicron variant. It has also reintroduced a measure giving Israel's internal intelligence agency overarching power to monitor and track phones to tackle the spread of the virus.

The World Health Organisation declared the recently discovered Omicron strain to be a "variant of concern", spurring a series of differing travel bans among various countries.

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