Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that while Israel was still assessing the magnitude of the threat posed by the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus, shutting the borders to non-citizens was “necessary.”

“Imposing restrictions on the country’s borders is not an easy step,” Bennett told the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday. He acknowledged that such restrictions would harm the country’s already tottering tourism industry but said that keeping the borders open could cause wider harm to the economy.

“Now we need to tighten the borders in order to keep the country open within,” he said.

Following a meeting of the country’s coronavirus cabinet on Saturday, ministers voted to bar non-citizens from entering the country for two weeks, as well as tightening other restrictions, according to an official statement. Pending approval by the government, the closure is to go into effect on Sunday night and remain in effect for 14 days.

Under the new restrictions, Israelis who have been vaccinated or recovered from the virus will be required to take PCR tests upon arriving in Israel, after which they will quarantine in their homes. If a second PCR test, taken on the third day, comes back negative, they will be able to leave quarantine. Non-vaccinated Israelis will have to wait seven days before taking the second PCR test.

Israelis returning from countries defined as “red” will undergo a PCR test and be required to enter a quarantine hotel until the initial results are received. With a negative result, they will move to home quarantine. On the seventh day, they will take an additional PCR test, and if negative, will be released from quarantine.

The Israel Security Agency (ISA) will activate cell phone tracking to keep tabs on verified cases of the new strain, according to the statement.

Restrictions on indoor gatherings will be tightened, down from 100 to just 50; however, performances and activities associated with the Hanukkah holiday, which begins on Sunday evening, will not be affected.


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