Israel Planning to Reduce No-fly Countries from 69 to 15
According to media reports on Monday, Israel will sharply reduce the number of ‘red’ countries that were added to the no-fly list. While this number will be reduced to 15 from 69, some key places like Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom will still be on the list. The report cited a committee of the Health Ministry and said that the panel had recommended removing 54 countries from the list of countries categorized as ‘red’ and needing special permission for flying to and from. However, the no-go list would still include destinations like the UK, the US, France, Canada, the UAE, South Africa, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Turkey as well as Mexico that was added to the list on Monday.
However, no official confirmation was given. These reports come after Nitzan Horowitz, the Health Minister, said on Sunday that despite the Omicron variant spreading quickly throughout Israel and leading to a new outbreak of infections, they would remove a number of restrictions on airline travel that had been imposed for slowing down the arrival of the new variant. Horowitz said that as infections were spreading already, it didn’t make sense to stop entry into the country from abroad. He had said that Israel would open its skies soon, as early as next week.
The travel rules in Israel have come under fire from experts, considering the likelihood that the Omicron variant has already entered the country. According to the statistics of the Health Ministry, a total of 112 people had entered the country on Saturday, carrying the virus. Israel had decided to close its borders at the end of November to foreign tourists in an attempt to keep the variant at bay. Since then, it has expanded its list of no-fly countries. Almost 70 countries have been deemed as high-risk, which include Turkey, the United States, and most of Africa and Europe.
On Saturday, the Health Ministry said that most of the confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in Israel had been detected in travelers who had returned from abroad. Israeli citizens are not allowed to travel to high-risk countries unless they are given special permission from a special committee. Reports also indicate that quarantine rules in the country will also be eased significantly, but this will only be applicable to those who are fully vaccinated. On Monday, the United States had also halved its quarantine and isolation recommendation.
Horowitz said in his Sunday interview that the government and the Health Ministry were discussing removing the quarantine requirements. As of Sunday, more than 85,000 people had gone into quarantine, including Prime Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett. According to experts, this number is expected to double within a week. Even though early studies indicate that the Omicron variant does not produce the same severe symptoms as the Delta variant, it could still end up putting hospitals under burden considering the rate at which it is currently spreading. Officials are preparing for a scenario where 50% of the workforce in the country could be in quarantine.