All travel restrictions imposed against the Omicron variant will be extended for an additional ten days, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz announced on Thursday night.
The measures, approved at the end of last month after the discovery of the new variant, were previously set to expire on Sunday night.
They include the complete closure of the borders to foreign nationals and a requirement for inbound vaccinated travelers to quarantine for three days and take a second PCR test on the third day, in addition to the one after landing. Moreover, around 50 African countries were designated as red – meaning that Israelis cannot travel to them unless they obtain special governmental permission. All returnees have to quarantine for a minimum of seven days, including the first day in a coronavirus hotel until the first PCR taken upon landing returns negative.
The quarantine requirement for returnees will need to be approved also by the Knesset Health Committee, while the mandatory period in a coronavirus hotel will need the green light of both the government and the Constitution and Law Committee.
Bennett and Horowitz also agreed to discuss additional restrictions and vaccination incentives in the upcoming days.
A meeting on the topic earlier in the day was reportedly very tense, with Horowitz opposing Bennett’s requests for stricter regulations.
According to Hebrew media, the prime minister has been pushing to impose specific restrictions on the unvaccinated, asking to examine the possibility of a lockdown only for individuals who are not inoculated, banning them from traveling abroad, and approving a vaccine mandate. In addition, the Green Pass system might start being applied also to malls.
After the morning discussion, the authorities announced that enforcement against violations of the Green Pass requirements would be stepped up. Beginning Sunday, the police have been instructed to increase the surprise visits to businesses and venues and to proceed immediately to fine the transgressors, as opposed to warning them first.
Many venues and activities in Israel are currently only accessible to Green Pass holders. For certain industries and professions, the document is required also to go to work. A Green Pass is granted to all those who are considered protected against COVID (vaccinated twice or recovered in the previous six months, vaccinated or recovered with a booster) or temporarily to those who undergo a test.
Meanwhile, morbidity in Israel has been on the rise slightly in the past few weeks – although the vast majority of cases are caused by the Delta variant. Only 21 Omicron cases have been identified so far, none after Monday.
There were 651 new virus carriers recorded on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said Thursday. A week earlier they were 563.
The number of active cases rose from around 5,300 to 5,900 in the past week. At the peak of the fourth wave in September, there were over 80,000.
At the same time, the number of serious patients dropped below 100 for the first time since July.